2012- Over the past several decades, British Columbia's Central Coast region, a remote area encompassing 25,000 square kilometres that is home to 4,000 residents living in the rural communities of Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Denny Island, Ocean Falls and Oweekeno, has experienced significant socio-economic change.
The region's traditional economic base, centered on natural resource extraction, declined due to broader industry trends and depletion of key resources in the forestry and fishing sectors. In response to this decline of resources, ecosystem-based management was initiated in the central and north coast regions in 2009 after over fourteen years of intensive, complex, and ultimately consensus-based land and resource management planning processes. The intent of ecosystem-based management in the Central Coast region is to integrate all approaches to natural resource management in order to sustain ecosystem health and resiliency while supporting the sustainable human use of ecosystem goods and services.
Because of these many changes to the region's traditional economic base, the Central Coast Regional District developed an economic development operating plan. The plan is meant to guide the region in applying sustainability principles, including full integration of ecological, social and economic values to achieve its overall goals of social and economic well-being. The primary purpose of the strategy is to build an 'Agenda For Change'. Through this work, the regional district is focused on creating a positive business climate, promoting the region and its businesses and organizations, assisting outside investors and liaising with governments. The economies of the regional district's communities are well positioned for diversification and growth, and the important planning and guidance achieved through projects such as this will continue to facilitate economic development in the Central Coast.
The Economic Development Operating Plan provides a roadmap for the Central Coast Regional District, its rural communities, senior levels of government, and the private sector. The plan illustrates how all parties can work together on the application of strategies for creating employment and new investment opportunities while also enhancing residents' quality of life and protecting the ecosystem throughout the Central Coast.
The plan allows potential investors to make informed decisions about the form of investment and development the communities within the Central Coast Regional District are welcoming. For companies already operating in the Central Coast and also for prospective investors, knowing the strategic direction and vision communities have for their economy is crucial for making long-term investment decisions.
The plan set out a series of specific economic development goals that are being accomplished by the regional district. The Bella Coola Valley has developed a distinctive brand that will allow them to advertise their tourism opportunities more cohesively and with better results, and the community has successfully secured the rights to a community forest that will enable the local workforce to harvest trees from the valley for the community's direct economic benefit. All profits and employment from these resource-based activities will stay within the Bella Coola Valley. These are just two of the many steps forward that the Central Coast Regional District has made as a result of the guidance provided by establishing a comprehensive regional economic development strategy.