The Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition (CCBAC) board is planning a new strategic direction, focusing on support for economic development in the region.

“CCBAC is turning a page,” said Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson who is chair of the board in a press release.

“First and foremost, the board wants to work with communities to identify the most important economic development opportunities and any resource gaps that prevent us from taking advantage of those opportunities,” Simpson said. “CCBAC will then set clear funding priorities, criteria, and processes, and we will make targeted investments of seed money to see results as quickly as possible.”

Part of the new direction will see the board seeking input from local government, First Nations, the provincial government and the private sector.

CCBAC’s aim is to identify priorities for strategic investment that will leverage more funding for economic development and diversification, the board said in a press release, noting  this will be accomplished, in part, by advocating for increased investments from the private, public and non-profit sectors in communities affected by Mountain Pine Beetle.

As a first step, CCBAC will meet with the region’s economic development officers and representatives of economic development corporations on Jan.  25 in Williams Lake.

The intent of the meeting will be to share plans and strategies that are already in place, look for ways to improve coordination, and determine the most appropriate means for CCBAC to assist organizations to attract investment and create jobs in the region.

CCBAC also plans to seek sector-specific input from small business, forestry, mining, agriculture, tourism, technology, manufacturing, advanced education and other sectors across the region.

CCBAC will take a three-pronged approach to its work:

Enable organizations to stimulate the economy of the Cariboo-Chilcotin through targeted economic diversification initiatives, coordinate economic development initiatives throughout the Cariboo Chilcotin, and  advocate for new investments in the region.

Collaboration is a cornerstone of CCBAC’s new strategic direction, Simpson said, adding CCBAC wants closer coordination with the other Beetle Action Coalitions and with other funding agencies serving the Cariboo Chilcotin, such as the Northern Development Initiative Trust and Rural Advisory Council.

“There’s hard work ahead for everyone in the region to reinvent our forest industry and to truly diversify our region’s economy, but the prospects are exciting and CCBAC will now be providing more focused assistance,” Simpson said.