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Local Voices Lead the Way Towards Economic Recovery

Abby Twyman
June, 2023
Today is: March 1st, 2024

During the 2023 Economic Recovery Summit, on April 24-29th, a series of five community conversations were held to address the challenges faced by the POW community, explore potential solutions, and develop actionable strategies. Participants included community members from various backgrounds, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and collaboration. This article summarizes the key outcomes from each conversation and highlights the collective hopes and dreams for a better future.

The Chamber's motto is "Progress Through Unity." We hope the ideas and bullet points shared here serve as a spark of inspiration for current and future business owners to get involved in developing collaborative solutions to address our shared challenges.

Conversation 1: Identifying Challenges

Participants discussed challenges such as information gaps, siloed operations, lack of engagement, and resistance to change. They also identified difficulties in filling essential positions, the need for an island-wide parks and recreation program, and the importance of integrating technology across all systems. The key issues were:

  • Information silos within and across organizations
  • Lack of effective communication systems
  • Lack of specialized training for essential jobs
  • Connecting people with local and remote opportunities
  • Employers not responsive to the real needs of employees
  • Limited opportunities for advanced training
  • Integration of technology into current systems
  • Interpersonal and interagency communication
  • Conflict resolution not happening - leading to stagnation
  • Organizations not truly acting upon strategic plans

Conversation 2: Exploring Potential Solutions

Solutions proposed included endowments for local vocational education, more part-time and flexible jobs, anonymous feedback systems, and technology-driven local and off-island sales. Participants also suggested focusing on small-scale tourism, regularly scheduled community events, youth job shadowing programs, and adapting to new-age business practices. The potential solutions identified were:

  • Investments in POW VocTEC (e.g., endowments)
  • More part-time and flexible job opportunities
  • Create a clear shared vision for the future
  • Use technology to sell goods and services globally
  • Involve children in planning and follow their lead
  • Focus marketing on conservationist travelers
  • More regularly scheduled events & community calendar
  • Increase opportunities for trade/barter of goods/services
  • Life skill coaching for youth, young adults, and people in recovery
  • Adapt to current needs while planning for the future

Conversation 3: One-year Action Plan

Big ideas to consider within the next year included offering marketing workshops, building a server farm, providing free CPR/first aid classes, and increasing accessibility through closed captioning and disability access. Other proposals were hosting tech-based conferences, gaming competitions, and creating virtual tours of the community. Increasing options for elder and disability care, improving island-wide communication, and creating a community calendar were also highlighted. The big ideas shared were:

  • SMART Recovery at the POW Health Network
  • More opportunities for youth at the POW VocTEC
  • Guided/structured tours to limit the negative impact
  • Work with youth to revamp systems island-wide
  • Create an island-wide communication system with back-up
  • More equitable and robust benefits for all employees
  • Capitalize on online solutions and optimize websites
  • Collaborate more across organizations for more impact
  • Insist on locally owned and operated tourism businesses
  • Meet youth where they are: online and sports

Conversation 4: Viable Actions

Viable actions discussed in this conversation focused on improving communication, developing a native-led chamber and visitors council, and pooling resources to support locally owned businesses. Participants also proposed hosting regular farmers/artist markets, creating a think tank, and developing a skill bank to harness local intellectual capital. Furthermore, they emphasized the importance of effective communication strategies and infrastructure support for creativity. The actions considered were:

  • Identify communication liaisons for each community
  • Farmer's markets with business-to-business opportunities
  • Non-structured shared creation spaces (e.g., art, food, crafts)
  • Discretionary spending and flexible spending accounts
  • Clear, consistent, and effective communication systems
  • Asset inventory of all community members (e.g., goods, services, skills, trades)
  • Native-led chamber and/or visitors council
  • Certification for locally recognized experts
  • Pool resources - locally owned and operated co-op
  • Offer SpruceRoot Business Basics with all VocTEC classes
  • Consistent follow-up and follow-through to ensure everyone is included

Conversation 5: Envisioning a Brighter Future

In the final conversation, participants shared their aspirations for the future. They expressed a desire for more opportunities, positivity, effective communication, nature, happiness, and support. They also hoped for less pollution, homelessness, drugs, racism, and negativity. Young adults identified preferred viable actions such as spreading awareness, supporting the local economy, improving employment options, and providing business training through local organizations. Key takeaways:

  • Spread awareness about the challenges we face
  • Provide more motivation and hype to engage
  • Help the local economy grow and diversify
  • Increase law enforcement and accountability
  • Create and help people find more opportunities
  • Improve employment opportunities locally
  • Provide open hours at the VocTEC for community
  • Connect aspiring entrepreneurs to SpruceRoot
  • Mentorship connections through asset inventory

Conclusion: The Time for Action Is Now

These community conversations showcased the power of collaboration, inclusivity, and action-oriented thinking in shaping a brighter future. By identifying challenges, exploring potential solutions, and developing actionable strategies, the community is well-positioned to create meaningful and sustainable change. The conversations emphasized the importance of engaging all community members in envisioning and working towards a better future. This series of conversations demonstrates the transformative power of collective hopes, dreams, and actions.

If you're interested in getting involved in guiding the future of economic development and improving quality of life on Prince of Wales Island, reach out to Wendy in the POW Chamber of Commerce office at 907-755-2626 or [email protected].

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Join us for our regular POW Chamber Board Meeting
Friday, March 8th, 2024
You are invited to join the POW Chamber board in person at Generations Southeast POW Campus (old VocTech) or via Google Meet. Link above.
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