Building a stronger community — non-profit participation in infrastructure planning & development

#8 Kaslo Library

Last week the Village of Kaslo hosted a highly informative — and thought-provoking — meeting, moderated by Columbia Basin Trust’s Kelvin Saldern, a meeting that brought together many of our community’s non-profit organizations, as well as the Mayor, members of Council, and the CAO.

The gathering’s main focus? The challenges — and opportunities — presented by the extensive physical assets (buildings) and land owned by the Village.

Most of the non-profits in the room currently rent or lease space from the Village — a revenue stream, we learned, that covers less than half the cost associated with keeping their buildings running, the difference being covered by taxpayers. In addition, we were told that few capital dollars have been set aside by the Village to-date (although this is starting to change) for the inevitable costs associated with “asset depreciation” — roofs that need fixing, furnaces that die in the middle of winter, that sort of thing.

We also heard that several of the organizations in attendance are either currently facing, or soon will face, a need for additional space.

Hmmm.

When we imagine a strong, resilient Kaslo and surrounding region, it’s impossible to ignore the ingenuity of our friends & neighbours who dedicate countless hours of volunteer and paid time to provide needed services, and transform dreams into reality. Folks who have turned their visions into organizations and places where people gather, work, play, share, earn, serve, and support one another. The interaction, between non-profits and our physical backbone (think the Arena, the Kemball Building, City Hall, the Seniors Centre, the Scout Hall, the thrift shop, etc.), has made an enormous contribution over the years to strengthening our community.

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So what about tomorrow?

In any discussion about the future relationship between our Village’s physical assets and area non-profit organizations, it’s important to remember these organizations often supplement or complement services provided by the public sector, addressing specific community demands while representing the interests of individual or collective groups. They deliver services to meet needs to which markets do not typically respond or are not designed to serve. We see this across a wide swath of local non-profits, from the Kaslo & District Public Library to North Kootenay Lake Community Services; from the Kootenay Lake Historical Society to the Langham Cultural Society. Then there’s May Days, Kaslo Jazz, the Trailblazers, the golf and curling clubs, Kaslo Minor Hockey….  the list is a long one.

The point is, without the amazing work of our area’s non-profits, life as we know it here would be significantly poorer. There would be no counselling or grief services. No concerts or festivals. No well-maintained trails or indoor recreation facilities.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine Kaslo without them.

So we’ve established that local non-profits matter. A lot. And we understand the Village faces some very real financial challenges revolving around costs associated with its extensive properties. We may as well also throw into the mix the fact we need to constantly be looking at ways to stimulate our economy, to create decent new jobs that will allow us to retain and attract young, ambitious people — many of them with families — to ensure our community remains vital.

All of which leads to an intriguing question: is there a way, a practical, strategic way forward, that will allow us to address some of the Village of Kaslo’s physical infrastructure concerns, support & strengthen our crucial non-profits, and provide a real stimulus to our economy?

We think the answer is yes.

The key, we believe, lies in some combination of an approach called place-based development, with what is called impact investment — initiatives that generate both economic and social benefits. We think it’s possible to find innovative ways to leverage Kaslo’s community assets, and in the process create added social and economic value for our town and Area D.

Kudos to the Village for starting this ball rolling.

It’s certainly gotten us thinking.

We’ll be back with more on this topic — soon.

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2 thoughts on “Building a stronger community — non-profit participation in infrastructure planning & development

  1. Hi Randy, while I appreciate the positive nature of your thoughts, the link (place-based development primer – Nov. 2010 – over 5 years old) identifies that the concept is not fully defined and is still “fuzzy” (not focused/not fully developed), to quote: “The debate surrounding the relevance of the concept (place-based development) is further complicated by its fuzziness and expanding scope.”

    Developing the idea further in the same paragraph the author notes that: “Natural resources in
    general are increasingly viewed as one set of many local assets that may be used as vehicles for
    economic diversification.”

    The economic engine of ‘natural resources’ has for a long time been a source of plenty in the area, yet always with tension. Even now when the ‘natural resource’ is being used with very low impact, for example heli-skiing (Stellar Heli-skiing), and/or accessing ski-touring cabins (Powder Creek, Mt. Carlyle) via helicopter there is tension. A great deal of negative feedback was noted on a local fb page, with the conversation removed by one of the administrators. The primary concern was that the local quiet ambiance was damaged by the sound, route and number of helicopter trips that were leaving the Kaslo aerodrome.

    Similarily, in the summer people have a problem with the vehicle traffic and especially motorcycle groups who enjoy the winding roads and quaint communities that a day trip offers. The problems voiced again primarily involve the loud motorcycles, but are not limited to that. Many also view the highway congestion/pollution and so forth as a hindrance to their enjoyment of Kaslo/the Kootenays.

    This has an impact on how Kaslo and area gains a competitive advantage as the “debates around economic restructuring and the transition from Fordism to post-Fordist production have paid considerable attention to the shift away from the importance of comparative advantage in favour of considerations of competitive advantage (Kitson et al., 2004).”

    As one economist said a long time ago … “money goes where it is welcomed” … so as Kaslo forges its new path I hope that the conversations will continue so that all will be able to welcome a new economic future for Kaslo (competitive advantage). I wish it would be a faster route, but I anticipate that it will be slow, since it’s always tough to be the one breaking trail and trying to prove a new concept which is still fuzzy with expanding scope.

    Robert Abbey

  2. Here is some info on the concept of a place-based development called “The Kaslo Eco Village” featuring a Off-Grid Enabled Retreat Centre and Bathhouse, a federal registered non-profit charitable foundation or institute and a local business association: https://morningstarcollective.wordpress.com/. Idea is to get a cohesive vision, branding and marketing strategy among various groups, businesses and individuals. Hope you like it! 🙂
    Thank you! Mina Palmer 250-505-0212.

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