ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN
The Cowichan Valley Regional District is moving forward with plans to hire a manager for its Economic Development function.
The decision was made after the board held a workshop recently on the future of the EDF with the district’s regional services committee.
Klaus Kuhn, the CVRD’s director for Youbou/Meade Creek, said he doesn’t think the decision to hire a manager for the organization is a good idea, and was one of the minority of directors who voted against it.
He said the CVRD had hired a manager for the EDF before, but had received some complaints from the public that it wasn’t money well spent.
“I wanted to try something else because I’m always interested in thinking outside the box on these issues,’’ Kuhn said.
“My suggestion was to contract some outside help or to go to the local business community and see what they need to enhance their businesses or add new ones to the area. We can do this with a manager, but a co-ordinator that was contracted out might be enough, and at a cheaper cost to the district,” he said.
But Kuhn said now that the majority of the board has decided to move forward with the hiring of a new manager, he will stand behind it.
After a lengthy discussion at a board meeting in February, directors decided to hold the workshop to try and determine the best future for the troubled EDF.
The issue was raised after the regional services committee recommended in a report a change in the EDF’s funding formula that would see a new economic development manager hired to head the function.
Its previous manager, Geoff Millar, retired in 2014.
Kuhn said in last month’s meeting that he found the report “troubling.”
“We’ve had studies done before, at a cost of about $30,000, on this issue and it was decided that management of the EDF shouldn’t be done in house,” Kuhn said at the time.
“If we hire a manager at a cost of about $120,000 per year and it doesn’t work out, what then? All we need is a co-ordinator and that would give us much more flexibility.”
Jerry Berry, of Jerry Berry Consultants Inc., tabled a report last year on the governance of the EDF in which he stated that there has been a “fundamental failure to follow board strategic direction” in the troubled organization.
The EDF has a budget of more than $800,000 per year, most of which comes from property taxes.
The CVRD uses a blended model for the EDF, combining in-house work by staff with several arms-length volunteer bodies.
Jon Lefebure, chairman of the CVRD, said the majority of the board felt that the extra money that will be spent on a new EDF manager, instead of a contracted out co-ordinator, who would work full time as part of the district’s staff will be “invaluable.”
“We’ll be depending on the manager to give the best professional help we can get to provide the board with a lot of inspiration, advice and direction in the district’s economic development,” he said.
“We felt that in order to get the best professional advice we can get, the position should be properly funded.”