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Reinventing Primary Resource Towns

Sculpture in front of City Hall in downtown Es...

Similar to many communities in the Kootenays, there are towns across North America that are facing tough decisions on their long term survivalbility in the changes that a global economy has enforced. Some communities are going for the local “eco” or tourism based experience market, and there have been some successes in the short term on this approach, however, a shift to a strong local economy that relies less on external imputs and markets is important.

Log trucks that once rolled through town at the rate of one a minute all but disappeared, and half of downtown’s storefronts went empty.Now, as the economy takes another plunge, this town of 2,900 seems better positioned to weather the decline, in part because of a series of public-private partnerships on land set aside for light industry.

via Reinventing Estacada: from timber to manufacturing – Breaking News From Oregon & Portland – OregonLive.com.

Relocalisation is Essential

Despite the “progress” we have made in globalisation and outsourcing, relocalisation is essential to local sustainability. Building the capacity to produce things that can be produced locally seems to be sensible for long term job stability and security of supply. This flies in the face of a recent bbook I ready called “The World is Flat” by Tom Freidman, but really, I don’t care as much about the potential to shave a few cents more off a product, or whether innovation is more possible in China or India; it is the local community that forms and has always formed the basis for truly sustainable living.

I’m not stating that global or cross-national trade will cease – it has existed for centuries in one form or another, rather, we need to identify which items can be produced locally and form the basis of a survivable state of living. Here in the Kootenays, we can sustainably produce fruit, vegetables, grains, herbs, meat, fish, dairy, mushrooms, timber, furniture, possibly glass and insulation materials, maybe soap, leather, paper. Many oif these are everyday goods that can be locally produced in light industrial settings.

Recently, a proposal for a local abattoir was rejected due to unfounded concerns about odour and waste products. This would have been a great example of an industry that is required by a community and fitting for a rural area such as the Kootenays. Unfortunately many of the zoning bylaws of communities disallow land uses that make sense for the future, when gentrification will be less of a concern than employment and feeding ourselves.

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Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

4 thoughts on “Reinventing Primary Resource Towns

  1. Nice post, Mike. The only thing more stupid than trying to give CPR to a town that was designed to die, ie, a one-industry or one-resource town, is to try to replace that industry with tourism.

    1. Thanks Eva, the article is a great example of what can be achieved through community! Looks like some of the next steps in the “Future of Foods” discussion.

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