Partnership between City of Powell River and qathet Regional District is being sought to attract immigrant investors to the region.
City director of economic development and communications Scott Randolph appeared before the qathet committee of the whole on Thursday, March 14, to see if the two governments could work together on the provincially sponsored project focused on attracting entrepreneurs from around the world to establish businesses in smaller centres.
“This is an effort by the province to funnel more investors out into rural areas,” said Randolph. “It’s part of an effort to diversify the economy. The greatest proportion of immigrating entrepreneurs end up in the Lower Mainland.”
The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) Entrepreneur Immigration Regional Pilot offers immigration pathways for permanent residency for economic immigrants.
Randolph said there are benefits that go towards locating immigrating entrepreneurs into rural communities. Going this route can create some good impacts for rural communities that are taking part in the program, he added.
Randolph said the city is being very specific about the areas in which it wants to see investment. Target sectors identified for investors in Powell River include food manufacturing, professional, scientific and technical services, and educational services.
“Really, the focus is upon attracting the right entrepreneur, reaching the intended target market and assisting in business establishment,” said Randolph. “There are supports and agencies on the ground that can help your business investors.”
In terms of attracting the right entrepreneur and meeting prospective applicants, if everything fits for the investor and the community as well, a referral is made to the province. If the applicant is successful with the immigration process, “we’re here to support them to help them integrate into the community and be successful as a business,” said Randolph.
Communities eligible for the program have a population of 75,000 or less, have identified economic priorities, demonstrate readiness and have a designated contact person for the foreign entrepreneurs.
An applicant will need to conduct an exploratory visit to the community and gain a better understanding of what their investment interest is and whether or not it fits the profile. Randolph said investors need to be referred by the participating community. The investors have to have a business plan and an idea of when they want to start up. They have to have long-term intentions to be in the community, be the operator of the business, and they have to meet the program criteria.
The program criteria involves a minimum investment of $100,000 and one job created. The entrepreneur must have a net worth of $300,000, which has to be verified by an accounting firm of the province’s choosing. They also have to have Canadian language benchmark certification level four, which is conversational English. They need a business plan and to be ready to go.
Randolph said BC PNP has asked if the regional district is interested in being involved in the project. While the BC PNP would prefer to have one referral agent, which in this case would be City of Powell River, Randolph said he would work with whomever is identified as the regional district staff contact on any potential investors who are interested.
He suggested the regional district set aside $2,500 in its budget for expenses that may be related to the program.
“If you’re interested in pursuing this program and seeing the benefits of it, we can work together,” said Randolph.
Committee of the whole voted on a three-part recommendation for the request. The recommendation included:
· That the committee recommend the qathet Regional District board include in the 2019 budget a contribution of $2,143 toward the BC PNP’s regional pilot program for entrepreneur immigration from the economic development service.
· That the committee recommend the board include in the 2019 budget a contribution of $357 toward the regional pilot program from the Electoral Area B grant-in-aid service.
· That the committee recommend the board partner with the city on the regional pilot program and direct staff to bring back a report regarding target sectors.
The motion carried. The recommendation will be considered by the qathet Regional District board.