March 24, 2024


COWICHAN VALLEY – March is here, bringing with it the promise of fresh opportunities in Cowichan!  As we step into this vibrant month, let’s embrace the spirit of renewal and opportunity, sustainable growth, and determination. Whether your organization or business is pursuing a new project, expanding your network, or simply taking the time to recharge, remember that every step forward counts. Economic Development Cowichan (EDC) has curated a list of all the dynamic activities that we are spearheading this month, along with exciting updates and opportunities happening in Cowichan.

Economic Development Cowichan Strategic Plan

EDC has embarked on updating our Strategic Plan with the help of Lions Gate Consulting to reflect the changes to the community and business landscape in Cowichan. Guided by the CVRD Corporate Strategic Plan (2023-2026), our new Strategic Plan aims to help Cowichan businesses and communities address growing concerns around climate change, labour markets and housing, and engage in economic reconciliation with First Nations. The CVRD Corporate Strategic Plan identifies the need to update the EDC Strategic Plan to build on the strengths we have and to emphasize:

  • The need for new investment in employment, and creating industries to help Cowichan thrive
  • Opportunities aimed at building the region’s economic diversification & resiliency
  • The ongoing importance of innovation in agriculture and other foundational industries
  • Opportunities to partner with First Nations in the pursuit of shared objectives and joint ventures, and
  • Opportunities associated with major infrastructure projects such as the hospital

The EDC Strategic Plan will provide a clear and thoughtful focus for EDC’s activities over the next five years, considering regional and sub-regional priorities. In the coming months, we will begin our engagement process with key community and business stakeholders.

Accommodation Needs Assessment Study

EDC in partnership with Tourism Cowichan is looking to better understand the current accommodation market in the Region, as well as the feasibility and potential for new accommodation, with an interest in attracting third party developers. The study will help us understand the criteria utilized in site selection for accommodation development, and is an important step towards securing more hotels in the region. The study is drafted and we are now refining the study with CBRE Limited Valuation and Advisory Services.

Workforce Housing Strategy

Since late 2022, the CVRD has been developing a comprehensive Workforce Housing Strategy for Cowichan, to come up with actions for increasing housing availability and affordability for the local labour force. EDC is leading this project with CitySpaces Consulting on behalf of the CVRD.

The strategy is drafted and EDC and CitySpaces Consulting have spent the past few months engaging with key stakeholders to refine the content and action items. A survey was sent out to those who had previously been involved in the project development and engagement sessions. The Strategy will be finalized between April and May 2024.

Upcoming Opportunities

“Build Your Own Future”- Crofton Workshop Coming Soon!

Are you affected by the recent mill closure and curtailment? Hub Space is hosting a Build Your Own Future Workshop in Crofton and is looking for participants. This is a government-funded business startup program for technicians & tradespeople affected by BC mill closures and curtailments. This is a free program for eligible participants that includes:

  • A $5000 grant for business expenses
  • A 5-day foundational business training workshop
  • Ongoing access to coaching, mentorship and business support
  • Monthly 3-hour training workshops for seven months

For more information about the workshop, reach out to Hub Space program manager, Heidi Booth, at (250)-563-2663 or email at You can also follow the link to register. The Crofton/Cowichan program is expected to launch in April!

Young Agrarians Offers Online Course: “How to Hire Farm Workers”

With spring right around the corner, now is the time to set your farm business plans into motion and assemble your team of dedicated and skilled workers. Young Agrarians presents How to Hire Farm Workers. This course is designed to be your go-to resource when you are looking to hire the right person for your farm. This online course is self-paced and covers the basics of hiring and managing farm employees. Registration in the course gives you access to five hours of content, including videos, checklists, templates, and resources. Click here for more information about the course.

In the Local News

Affordable Rental Housing Coming to Duncan

A new four to six story, 199-unit rental complex will be constructed on reserve land owned by Cowichan Tribes at 222 Cowichan Way in Duncan. The project will be developed by Cowichan Tribes economic arm, Khowutzun Development as part of the BC Builds Program. The building will have a minimum of 20% of units that will be rented at 20% below market value, with the goal of delivery even more units at below-market rates. It will also provide a new governance headquarters for Cowichan Tribes, and space for Indigenous businesses. Let’s congratulate Cowichan Tribes on their leadership and this significant project that contributes to affordable housing for the Cowichan region!

Saltair Sawmill Increases Mill’s Capacity with First Continuous Dry Kiln on BC Coast

Western Forest Products employees and local government recently celebrated the completion of the first continuous dry kiln on the coast of BC at the Company’s Saltair sawmill. Western Forest Products also plans to continue accelerating its transition to higher value products with approximately $35 million of investments for two additional continuous dry kilns. The newly installed $12 million continuous dry kiln increases the mill’s capacity for continuous drying of lumber, and also provides environmental benefits by reducing energy consumption. The new kiln adds to the three existing kilns on site for drying lumber.

Western Forest Products is the largest private employer on Vancouver Island with six sawmills and two remanufacturing plants, sustaining 3,500 jobs that support nearly 20 communities. These operational upgrades reflect an investment in value-added manufacturing on the BC coast. Mayor of the Town of Ladysmith, Aaron Stone, stated: “This mill upgrade is great news for our community and a testament to our workforce in Ladysmith. The forest sector is the backbone of the BC economy and increasing its competitiveness through investments, such as these by Western Forest Products, support the communities and individuals who rely on these industries.”

March is shaping up to be a month brimming with promise and potential. From strategic endeavours to the array of workshops and grants available, there’s no shortage of opportunities! Be sure to check out our blog post about funding pathways for more information on more upcoming grant opportunities for your business or organization. Here’s to a new season filled with innovation and success!

Barry O’Riordan is the Manager of Economic Development Cowichan.

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