Comox Valley Economic Development not communicating, says downtown business group

A downtown Courtenay business group is complaining about communication with the Comox Valley Economic Development Society.

The Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association (DCBIA) notified Courtenay council Monday of communication issues with the Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS).

During Monday’s council meeting, DCBIA president Mark Middleton noted the only problem in the DCBIA’s attempts to improve the health of downtown Courtenay is its ability to communicate effectively with CVEDS.

“We’re having difficulties and issues with CVEDS, with economic development — they just don’t want to talk, they don’t want to return phone calls or e-mails or voicemails — and it’s particularly frustrating when we see the relationship that other BIAs have on the Island with their economic development boards,” said Middleton. “And it’s not just Courtenay, it’s Comox and Cumberland, everybody’s saying the same thing.”

Coun. Starr Winchester expressed concern over Middleton’s comments.

“That surprises me, and that is something I think that we should deal with right now. I think we should ask staff to arrange a meeting with Mr. Watson (CVEDS executive director),” said Winchester, noting the CVEDS office moved to the upper floor of the art gallery in downtown Courtenay earlier this year. “That was one thing I was looking forward to was to see a good relationship there (between CVEDS and the DCBIA).”

Coun. Bill Anglin, who sits on CVEDS board of directors and is council liaison to the DCBIA, said he will bring the matter up at the CVEDS strategic planning session next week.

Middleton also noted costs to promote DCBIA at the Vancouver Island Visitor Centre in the Comox Valley are mind-boggling.

“We’ve got a beautiful new facility up there at the top of the hill, the connector, and the only way anybody can have any representation in there is to pay for it,” Middleton told council. “So with a roughly million-dollar budget to promote and enhance businesses in the Comox Valley, the only way the DCBIA is mentioned, we have to pay nearly $3,000 a year for the privilege of being there — it just doesn’t seem right to me.”

The Record asked CVEDS for comment on communication between the BIAs and CVEDS, and the cost per year for the DCBIA to have representation at the visitor centre.

“The centre has serviced over 25,000 visitors, providing accommodation and activity sales and bookings for the entire region, and has enjoyed a significant increase in out of town visitors utilizing the centre versus locals,” CVEDS employee Lara Greasley replied in an e-mail. “Our advertising programs surpassed 2011 sales by 41 per cent, with dozens and dozens of downtown businesses in the region leveraging on the opportunities provided through the VIVC.

“We are just about to launch sales of our 2013 Visitor Services Marketing Opportunities Program, which includes a wide range of new opportunities for businesses to participate including online and social media marketing.”

She did not mention communication between CVEDS and BIAs in the Comox Valley.

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