It was supposed to be a pilot program and the jobs forum held in Maple Ridge Thursday is proving to be exactly that.
The effort that’s part of the BC Jobs Plan has already morphed from the Mackenzie model, sketched out by Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell.
That model, used three years ago to turn around the slumping economy of that northern town, had business, government and labour leaders brainstorming on quick ways to kickstart job creation, resulting in a sawmill and pulp mill reopening and a mine beginning operation.
But Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission area is larger than Mackenize and many with the expertise on the topics raised weren’t at the forum, said Maple Ridge economic development spokesperson Sandy Blue.
Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, which compose Invest North Fraser, is the first area to try the model before it is rolled out across the province.
Blue said those experts will be consulted, ministry staff will pitch in and at a second meeting early in the new year 10 possible projects, will be considered.
That number then will be whittled down by June to two or three feasible ideas that can be expedited by having government remove roadblocks and creating the right conditions for a private investment that can produce jobs.
Blue said many of the projects raised at the forum didn’t necessarily result in new employment.
“That’s the challenge really. There are lots of great projects, but they didn’t really create jobs.”
Some concepts as possible sources of jobs included an agricultural-distribution centre, a food-processing centre, a centre of excellence for green building construction and developing a tourism/recreation corridor in the Stave Lake area.
Developing industries that can fit with the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport as well as the film industry are two other possibilities.
Experience the Fraser, the multi-government project that wants to put recreational trails on either side of the Fraser River from Vancouver to Hope was also discussed.