Kimberley City Council has voted to have the City enrol in the Provincial Nominee Program Entrepreneur Immigration Regional Pilot Program, which, if accepted, could help foreign entrepreneurs bring their businesses to the area.
According to the program outline, the EI Regional Pilot is a partnership between communities and the province, focused on attracting motivated entrepreneurs from around the world to establish a new business in regional communities to meet the community’s specific needs.
Mayor Don McCormick explained at a regular Council meeting on Monday that the province acts as a consultant for foreign entrepreneurs to help bring their businesses to rural areas.
“The bottom line here is that this is a lead generation thing, for foreign entrepreneurs who are looking to invest money in the province and into businesses,” said McCormick. “They [entrepreneurs] are being coached by the province through the program to do so in rural areas.”
He adds that the City’s Economic Development Officer has the opportunity to “filter” those who apply through the program.
“Each one of these applications that comes in isn’t something that we have to accept or even have to evaluate. It’s specific to three different job related categories that are on our priority list. It’s very focused,” said McCormick.
The program outline explains that each community has the best knowledge of their local business environment, so they are perfectly situated to identify business opportunities and settlement support services that are available to newly arrived entrepreneurs.
CAO Scott Sommerville says that the City is currently working on updating their trade and investment profile, and this pilot is another part of that update.
Councillor Nigel Kitto, who immigrated to Canada from Australia many years ago, says that this streamlines the process for foreign entrepreneurs.
“There’s nothing stopping anyone from coming here today and starting a business through immigration,” said Kitto. “This streamlines the process, focuses it and makes it easier for the person who is applying. For example, I came in under the nomination program, and it streamlined the immigration process from 18 months down to probably 6 months.”
Councillor Jason McBain agreed, saying that applying to the program is a “no brainer” for the City.
McCormick adds that Kimberley’s business sector is currently very focused on tourism and retail.
“This program may help to bring in and diversify jobs,” he said.
Councillor Kent Goodwin raised a few concerns including the amount of work it could potentially be for staff, as well as competition among local entrepreneurs.
“If we’re going to be giving assistance to foreign entrepreneurs, it would be nice if they aren’t competing with local businesses,” said Goodwin.
The Mayor reiterated the fact that the City will be able to pick and choose which foreign entrepreneurs do set up shop in Kimberley, if any.
“We get an opportunity to choose the [applicants] that we think are in the best interest of the community,” said McCormick. “It’s not just about dollars and investment but its also about settling in the communities; the entrepreneur and their family.”
To be eligible for the EI Regional Pilot, communities must have a population fewer than 75,000, be located beyond 30 kilometres of a municipality of more than 75,000, and demonstrate their capacity to support foreign entrepreneurs through an established network of settlement and business support agencies.
Applicants must also meet certain criteria inducing a visit to the community, a minimum of $100,000 in eligible business investments, a minimum of 51 per cent ownership and more.
“This initiative is intended to maximize the economic benefits of immigration to B.C. to support shared prosperity across the province,” reads the report. “Immigration and pilot-specific training will be offered to community representatives and must be completed before confirming the enrolment. Communities will then be in a position to host exploratory visits and issue referrals for potential applicants.”