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New federal economic development agency to open in Fort St. John

PacificCan will take over economic development in B.C. from Western ­Economic Diversification
Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly

Fort St. John is among eight B.C. communities that will house offices for the federal government’s new Pacific Economic ­Development Canada agency.

PacificCan will take over economic development in B.C. from Western ­Economic Diversification, but with a different mandate.

Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly said one of the priorities established when the government considered economic development was dealing with the “injustice we saw over the years, the fact there was not as much resources and support throughout B.C. compared to other regions.”

“That had to be changed,” she said.

Joly and her staff spent several months meeting with representatives in all regions of the province to determine what they would like to see out of the entity that would replace the 34 year-old Western Economic Diversification, launched in 1987.

Joly said B.C. is unique and the agency must be tailored to it, and that meant being designed for small- and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs all over the province. 

The mandate will be to help create and maintain jobs, ensure communities can grow and develop new projects and open up the globe to aspiring companies.

In northern B.C., there will be offices in Fort St. John, Prince George, and Prince Rupert to help small businesses find funding and expand their reach by opening the doors to export programs and the like. 

“It becomes a tool to navigate the maze of the federal government,” she said.

The agency will be headquartered in Surrey, with other offices to open in Victoria, Campbell River, Kelowna, and Cranbrook.

With a budget of $550 million over the next five years, and $110 million in ongoing funding, satellite offices and new staff will be established this fall. Joly hopes they will be functioning by the end of the year.

Joly said the success of PacificCan would be ­measured by the satisfaction of the ­province’s entrepreneurs.

“This is not for big business, this is for small business, it’s for start-ups and those growing bit by bit, or are part of the supply chain of big business,” she said.

— with files from The Times Colonist

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