Leading the masses to water

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: | Port Alberni’s abundance of water is its greatest asset, according to the results of a branding committee survey.

City of Port Alberni economic development manager Pat Deakin gazes out over the water just beyond Centennial Pier.

City of Port Alberni economic development manager Pat Deakin gazes out over the water just beyond Centennial Pier.

What does Port Alberni have to offer? And how does a visitor get converted to a resident? That’s what the city’s branding committee is trying to figure out, said economic development manager Pat Deakin.

“What we’re doing at the moment is an asset inventory,” said Deakin.

Following a survey of 943 Alberni Valley residents completed this summer, Deakin and his branding committee are focusing on water as the region’s primary attraction.

“We’ve been slowly gathering all the information we can about water; it’s used for agriculture, it’s used for industry, it’s used for transportation, it’s used for recreation…”

While water is used in all facets of life, Deakin’s target market of millennials (people aged 20–40)means the committee is focused on two uses in particular: drinking water and recreation.

The committee’s focus on the former is in part led by the past summer’s drought conditions.

“Central Vancouver Island was perhaps hardest hit with restrictions but of the central Vancouver Island communities, Port Alberni was best off,” said Deakin.

“We certainly were conscientious in our use of water but we weren’t as much at risk as some communities.”

Port Alberni stayed at level 2 water restrictions while communities like Nanaimo and Parksville ended up at stage 4.

“We believe that it’s an opportunity to market not only the community’s abundance of drinking water but the quality of it,” said Deakin, adding that the strategy was deemed effective due to how conscious millennials are of water issues in communities.

The other focus of the branding committee is a little more typical: recreation.

The list of those uses, Deakin said, is all but endless.

“What wouldn’t we want to attract people to do?”

From kiteboarding to kayaking to standup paddleboarding, Port Alberni is full of opportunities for aquatic recreation, Deakin added.

Inventorying Port Alberni’s assets gives the committee an opportunity to figure out how to do one very important thing, said Deakin.

“There’s an opportunity to convert a visitor to a resident when they have experienced something here that they like,” said Deakin.

The idea, he added, is to have the sort of tourist experience in the Alberni Valley that those visitors—even the ones simply passing through on their way to the West Coast­—fall in love and choose to relocate to Port Alberni permanently.



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