The Alberni Valley has shared its share of economic woes over the years but those at Port Alberni’s city hall say the economy is on a definite upswing.
On Wednesday two cannabis stores opened in the region.
The Tseshaht First Nation is opening the first BC-licensed cannabis store that’s owned and operated by a First Nation.
“Tourism is the key factor here. We have over a million people here who drive through our community to Tofino and Ucluelet each year and now they have the opportunity to stop and not just get gas at our Tseshaht market but cannabis products as well,” said Ken Watts, one of the band’s councillors.
Five people have been hired to work at the shop.
The opening happens on the same day the B.C. government opened a BC Cannabis Store in Port Alberni. It’s the third government store to be opened on Vancouver Island. It will employ 16 people.
In the 1970s, Port Alberni had among the highest per capita income in Canada.
The town’s economy has struggled at times since, with mill shutdowns and layoffs, but there’s a positive feeling these days at city hall.
“We’re diversifying the economy like we haven’t seen in recent years,” said Pat Deakin, Port Alberni’s Economic Development Manager. “We’ve got marine industry, tourism, aerospace and clean-tech.”
The Coulson Group is one of the businesses taking off. Since the controversial extension of the Alberni Valley airport, the company has secured more contracts and it’s been retrofitting planes for firefighting.
“We’ve continued to go through a big expansion in 2019, expanding with our aerospace business,” said Foster Coulson, vice-president of The Coulson Group. “We’re now operating in three continents, North America, South America and Australia. As well our cleaning technology has been going through a lot of growth.”
The company says it’s bringing a lot of staff to the Alberni Valley. And the city says it’s seeing it’s population rise.
“Better bang for your buck for real estate. a beautiful neighbourhood that you get to live in and it feels very safe,” said Janice Palmer, who moved to Port Alberni from Qualicum Beach in November.
“For a small community, it’s perfect.”
Long known as “the community with a heart “the warmth of people has impressed Palmer since moving here. She says that’s something that often doesn’t come in larger cities.