Kootenay Employment Services staff joined Creston & District Community Co-op director Tim Hull (third from left), CDIC founding director Hugh Grant, Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall and regional investment co-op project manager Scott Weir on Thursday, as Mungall announced a $100,000 grant to help co-ops in the region to get established. (Photo credit Lorne Eckersley)

Community investment co-ops get provincial support

The Creston & District Community Investment Co-op is serving as a model for other BC communities, and CICs in the region are now getting financial support from the provincial government.

Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, who is also the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, was in Creston on Thursday to hand over $100,000 to help CICs with expenses as they expand throughout the Kootenay-Columbia region.

“I am so glad to be part of a government that understands the need for people to invest in their own communities,” she told a small crowd at Kootenay Employment Services, which spearheaded the formation of CDCIC. “I am thrilled to come back here and celebrate with the community.”

Representing the CDCIC board of directors was Tim Hull, who announced that the co-op board will be asking members to approve a dividend to shareholders at this week’s annual general meeting.

Scott Weir, project manager for CICs in the East Kootenay-Columbia and West Kootenay-Boundary regions, credited Creston for its leadership.

“As many of you will know from the groundbreaking work of the Creston & District Community Investment Co-op, the demand for options to make an impact with our money is certainly on the rise,” he said. “Currently, nearly all investment capital leaves our local communities, missing the huge opportunities that can come from keeping those dollars local. Our investments create significant jobs and wealth elsewhere, but since our communities are rural and outside of major centres, we are often overlooked and underfinanced. At the same time, rural business development studies and economic development organizations have identified that ‘access to capital’ is a top barrier to business startups, expansions and successions.”

Mungall said the enthusiasm with which investment co-ops have been received is a reflection of local values.

“Keeping our money here to grow our communities is a very Kootenay idea,” she said.

Weir added that CICs are cost-effective, community-owned and community-controlled answers to local economic development.

“They enable residents to become partners in locally driven economic development, with the intent of earning a return, while helping to contribute to a more sustainable economy. In other words, your money won’t be in stocks and mutual funds but, more importantly, in local projects and people.”

In order to support the creation and growth of CICs, the BC government created a Mobilizing Local Capital project, working with KES, the BC Rural Centre and dozens of East Kootenay-Columbia economic development organizations.

“We are formally partnered with five Kootenay Community Futures offices and bank with our local credit unions,” Weir said. “We are building a replicable model and start-up guide, and supporting software that will make formal local investment cooperatives so much easier for any community to do moving forward, and help the existing ones thrive.”

Hugh Grant, a founding director of CDCIC, said that the new funds will benefit the local co-op by allowing new members to sign up and purchase investment blocks on-line, simplifying the process and encouraging more participation.

With most of its available funds now out in loans to local businesses, CDCIC is now inviting new members to join and invest.

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