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REPORTING · 21st January 2012
Walter McFarlane
Margaret Sanou got up to present the Budget for the Retire Kitimat Task Force to Council on Monday, January 16th.

She expressed their strategy is to target people approaching retirement who enjoy fishing and the outdoors and live in Northern BC, Alberta, the Yukon and Saskatchewan. People from these areas are used to harder winters and Kitimat’s winters are not as bad by comparison.

“The aim of the Retire in Kitimat Task Force is the relocation of Retirees to Kitimat will be one part of a well diversified local economy with a small industrial base,” said Sanou.

She emphasized the low cost of housing and the low cost of living were two of the big reasons people look here. The hospital and the availability of family doctors and dentists were also on the list. One retiree stated the regional health services in Terrace are closer to Kitimat than they are to Smithers. The recreation facilities and Senior’s Centre are another draw, and added the relaxed lifestyle to the list.

The tools they use to draw people into the town are the small brochures and a large booklet, which are distributed around the country. She thanked the Chamber of Commerce for helping distribute the brochures around the region so they are visible to tourists.

She expressed their website is the cornerstone of their campaign. People who visit the site can contact the task force. Over a 12 day period in December, they had 112 distinct visitors. 11% spent more than an hour on the website.

Another part of the program is advertising. They advertised in 9 publications bringing their message to 2 million readers. In addition, Councillor Corrine Scott wrote about her experience in Kitimat.

They gave 5 tours of Kitimat in 2011. The visitors were all very impressed with what Kitimat had to offer. Another accomplishment was bringing in the television series, North of 49, to film in Kitimat again.

In 2011, the task force went to the Edmonton Boat and Sportsman Show. They also promoted Kitimat as a great place to fish. They spoke to about 300 people who were interested in Kitimat and received in Retire in Kitimat while younger people expressed an interest in coming to Kitimat to Fish.

They have faced challenges, the closure of Moon Bay and the shortage of mooring space is a handicap. They still emphasise the fishing and the low cost of housing. They have all their marketing tools in place and people are seeing Kitimat as an attractive retirement location. However, they will not know if they are successful for several more years.

They have noticed some trends. Most of the people retiring here are people who have visited the community in the past, fishing on the channel is a high priority, the new hospital is a key component and former residents have decided to return to Kitimat.

She asked to retain the services at the Hospital, increase marina space and Kitimat must remain the friendly welcoming people they have always been. The weather must improve and they must receive funding.

She pointed out the construction phase of the projects coming to Kitimat are a good time to recruit potential retirees. In addition, the coverage given to the projects mean readers may already be familiar with Kitimat.

She explained the group was formed because the negative impact the closure of Eurocan would have on the community and they did not want to see the declining population result in the closure of businesses and the loss of services.

“We felt there was an urgent need to take action, to diversify our economy and counteract the declining population. Attracting retirees to Kitimat was a promising source of new residents as Kitimat had fewer jobs and retirees do not require employement,” said Sanou.

She added the economy has improved since they began. However, the boom will end in fewer jobs as the construction workers leave, the smelter would employ 500 fewer people and the LNG would not employ a large number.

Sanou asked Council to provide $30,000 to the retire in Kitimat task force.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked if there was a dire need for the money. Sanou said they planned to put ads in publications. Erring on the side of caution, they did not spend all of their money.

Councillor Rob Goffinet congratulated her on her document. He said this goes for what Council wanted Kitimat to be, a great place to live and retire, a place for young people and older people. Sanou agreed that Kitimat was a community with a mixture of ages.

Council forwarded the request for the budget process.