The hard work of the Christina Gateway Community Development Association is starting to pay off.
The organization was created earlier this year with the idea of bringing together different community organizations so the broad issues facing Christina Lake could be tackled without taxing any particular organization’s stretched resources.
With the creation of a Capital Venture group in Christina Lake that task will be much easier.
“To do a Community Venture Capital project in B.C. is rather difficult,” said Sandy Mark, Christina Lake community co-ordinator. “You can’t even get in the door without a $25,000 piece of money sitting on the table.”
A $25,000 initial investment did come in, courtesy of the Christina Lake Perley Memorial United Church. Mark said the venture capital group is almost incorporated and is just waiting on finalization as soon as the papers are approved.
“Then the Venture Capital group will begin a process of ‘friend’-raising … where people come in and look at the possibility of becoming an investor in their community,” she said.
The purpose of the Christina Lake Community Venture Capital project is to create economic development incentive funds. The project will allow a pool of capital that is locally raised, managed and invested. The fund can provide investors with a 30 per cent tax credit.
Mark said the hope is other groups will join in when they see the project will be able to address the fundamental issues facing the community including: attracting more young people; creating more jobs; keeping the school healthy; keeping taxes under control; and keeping property values up.
The Christina Lake Perley Memorial United Church got involved when member Carlo Crema approached Grace McGregor, Electoral Area C regional director, and Mark about how the church could play a role.
Mark wondered if the congregation was willing to make a “magnet” investment to help establish a Community Venture Capital Program. After several meetings and a presentation by Mark to the congregation, a vote was brought forward.
“We had 100 per cent approval of doing what we did,” said Crema. “I knew if we didn’t do anything that this community would slowly deteriorate. I think with this process we can hold our own.”
The people living in Christina Lake are now being challenged to join in investing in their community, said Mark. A volunteer Community Venture Capital group has been assembled to guide the development process.
The group understands that community economic development is needed to ensure property values will hold; that increased business taxation would ease the burden on property taxes; and that new businesses would revitalize community organizations and ensure the school and fire department continue to thrive, added Mark.
Also integral to the creation of the venture capital group has been the involvement of McGregor. She originally brought together a committee of key organizations in Christina Lake that led to the hiring of Mark as community co-ordinator.
She also provided a situational analysis to the committee that underlined her concerns about property values, rising taxation, attracting young families and more.
Mark suggested the formation of the Christina Gateway Community Development Association, which formed in March. The group is made of representatives of the seven most active community associations in Christina Lake.
The Christina Gateway association has several strategies in place, including working toward increasing the available bandwidth in the community, strengthening existing businesses by developing stronger marketing capacity, developing a comprehensive business attraction program, and creating a Community Venture Capital program.
But the meeting with Crema and the investment from Christina Lake Perley Memorial United Church got the ball rolling, said McGregor.
“For me, it’s really emotional because if you can truly get your community looking at sustainability and economic development that they have a say in, everybody wins,” she said. “Everybody wins because the taxation isn’t nearly as heavy on them and we have other ways to support businesses.”