“One of the aspects of the Creston lifestyle I embrace wholeheartedly is that we live the way we’re meant to live. … I think humans need to be surrounded by nature. I think humans need to eat fresh local produce — we weren’t meant to live out of a can.”
With that outlook, it’s fitting that Jim Jacobsen is the executive director of the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce, having in January taken over the role of manager most recently held by Becky VanDenEykel.
And with the chamber running the Visitor Centre on Northwest Boulevard, a positive view of the Creston Valley’s assets is a plus.
“A lot of people stop here first, wondering what to do in Creston and what the valley has to offer,” said Jacobsen.
The list of suggestions is topped by agri-tourism, including Creston Valley Food Action Coalition’s Farm Fresh Guide, the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market, the wineries and the cheese factory.
While tourism may seem like the chamber’s most obvious role, for chamber members it does something closely entwined but equally important.
“The fundamental aspect of the chamber is we work to help member businesses become more successful,” said Jacobsen.
Health care and gas discounts are among the benefits offered to members, part of the “big picture goal” to expand the business community.
“We can bring in more tax dollars, bring in more shopping dollars and have businesses look at relocating to the community,” said Jacobsen.
Through its association with the B.C. and Canadian chambers, the Creston chamber can also ensure that its 250 members’ concerns are heard. Here at home, the chamber has an excellent relationship with all levels of local government, lending it extra credibility when lobbying at a higher level.
The Ottawa-born and Winnipeg-raised Jacobsen and his wife, Jackie, moved to Creston in 1991; she had a job at Adam
Robertson Elementary School, and he had accepted a position at the Creston and District Community Complex as the recreation co-ordinator, a perfect fit for the bachelor’s degree in human performance he earned at the University of Victoria, as well as his background in coaching and event development/co-ordination.
He stayed with that job for five years, before taking a job developing a recreation program for a fledgling community school in Robson (near Castlegar). The concept allows the community to use taxpayer-funded school facilities for a variety of purposes while classes are out.
That led Jacobsen to study new media communications at the College of the Rockies, where he learned about using the Internet as a tool in teaching and marketing.
His next move was bigger than a simple change in job — he moved with his wife and two children to Creston’s sister city, Kaminoho, Japan, where the lived for two years. But during that time, the Creston Valley was never far from mind, especially with eight Creston students attending school in Japan during that time.
“There was still a link to the Kootenays, and Creston, in particular,” Jacobsen said. “I always maintained that continuity with being involved in Creston.”
The family returned to Creston in 2000, when Jacobsen began selling advertising for KBS Radio, before joining the Creston Valley Advance’s sales department in 2004.
Throughout that time, he was a participant in Creston’s volunteer force, coaching sports and working with the Creston-Kaminoho Friendship Society, as well as the now-defunct Positively Creston Valley.
“It was a very interesting mix of people in the valley working to promote the Creston lifestyle,” Jacobsen recalled.
During that time, he also joined the board of the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce, increasing his appreciation for what the organization does, and giving him ideas for the future.
“I see the chamber as a way to shape how businesses are seen in the community. … And we’re working with organizations in the valley to promote what the valley has to offer, both in terms of lifestyle and in terms of the businesses that exist, as well as the opportunities that exist.”
A major promotion venue is, of course, the annual home and garden show put on by the chamber at the community complex, which sees over 3,000 visitors in one weekend.
To further promote local business and all the valley has to offer, Jacobsen intends to have the chamber continue to partner with local businesses, just as it does with the Advance to produce the annual Creston Valley Visitors’ Guide.
The chamber recently received the Town of Creston’s support to review several years of tourism and economic development studies — Jacobsen said he has 16 on file. They will be assessed to see which recommendations have been carried out and which are still relevant.
“Now is the time we’ve got the co-operation in place and the will to carry out the recommendations,” he said.
And it’s all part of living in a special community, one where businesses still close for a mid-morning tea break, and employees can easily take a half-hour to see a Focus on Youth concert.
“We have such a strong sense of quality of life and belonging,” said Jacobsen. “This valley is the epitome of the way people are meant to live.”