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The Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA) recently hired Kate Maddigan as its new Economic Development Officer (EDO). 

Colin Funk, the President of CCEDA, explained, “I have known Kate pretty much the entire time I’ve been on Cortes, I think I’m coming up to my 10th summer here. I’ve been on a few boards with her when I was active with Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI). We live pretty close together in the south end of the island. So like many, we bump into each other at the store or on the trails and such.”

Cortes Currents asked Maddigan about some of the work she has done in the community.

“I’m working for the ambulance station, but that will be my daytime job.”

“I did work for DFO for quite a few years up in the Yukon, and through that  I came to understand government culture better than anywhere. So when I’m writing a grant or something, I understand the brain of a bureaucrat. It really helps because you need to be able to speak their language and not everybody can do that.”

“I have written a lot of grants, and then it turns into a project management position because I know the project so well”.

“The Cortes Community Forest Cooperative approached me to write a grant with their value added project, and then I became the project manager when the grant was successful. I’ve also done some work for the partnership with the skills training of forestry workers a year and a half ago, I wrote the grant, the grant was successful and I became the project manager.” 

“I did some work writing grants for the Cortes Island Streamkeepers and help them with their fundraising strategy.”

“I’ve done a lot of work for FOCI just being on the board of directors for 10 years, and felt that my time  there was done, and CCEDA was looking for a grant writer.  So I jumped in and  I’ve done some project management for CCEDA along with all the grant writing.”

Cortes Transportation Committee (2017) Left to right: Sonya Friesen, Don Tennant, Kate Maddigan, Max Thaysen & Director Anderson. – Courtesy Noba Anderson

CF: “She’s got a deep sense of Cortes, having been a resident for many years. She’s been in the nonprofit/ social profit sector for a huge amount of time and, I think more than anybody on Cortes, has a really good understanding of the groups – whether it’s groups that are dealing with the environment, economic or social education. That’s really important because many of us sometimes just have a singular focus and she’s very much pan-Island, so that’s super important.” 

“The other thing too is she just has some remarkable skills in terms of being a real strategic thinker, and a visionary and then the ability to get things done. That’s unique because most of us are either big thinkers, dreamers, but we couldn’t tie our shoes effectively. Others can get lots of things done, but aren’t necessarily working on the right thing or the appropriate context. She’s got this whole brain approach. Kate can go from big picture and then very quickly understand what’s needed to put that forward.” 

“She’s got a wonderful personality and is really responsive to listening to people and following up on, helping us achieve our aspirations, our dreams. When you’re working in the type of work we do in the nonprofit sector and volunteer sector, it’s all about relationship. We’re doing stuff that sometimes is a surprise, or unexpected, or a challenge and quite often with limited resources. So the relationship side of things is really, really important. LIke many others, I just so enjoy being around her.”  

KM: “If you wanted to get into each of the areas that I’m interested  in working on, worker housing is one of them.  I have approached the Cortes Housing Society about this before, and they’re all about Rainbow Ridge, which is a fantastic project, but it’s a very long-term project. What are the more short-term things that we can do to help housing?”  

CC: You’re talking about looking for worker housing and they are pretty well maxed out at Rainbow Ridge.

KM: “Yes, I think that’s why they can’t really consider those shorter term housing solutions that I was talking about. This is something that CCEDA can maybe help with.”

“I’m really good at just stealing ideas from other places, so that I don’t have to recreate the wheel. I think that there’s a lot of value in seeing what the Southern Gulf Islands are doing with their Housing Now Registry. I’m trying to get in touch with the person that’s organizing that, so just to get some ideas and see if it would really work here because that’s just  a good short-term solution.  Also at the RIEP forum we talked about a  speculation tax for empty houses. There have been some initiatives to try and encourage homeowners who don’t use housing that they own on a year round basis to encourage them to use the housing for locals.” 

CC: “As I understand it, the hesitation from property owners is that  a number have had renters who maybe have trashed their house, or they’ve just been unpleasent tenants. A number of potential landlords are hesitant because they’ve heard of these incidents, and they don’t want the hassle themselves.” 

KM: “I think there are some landowners, perhaps homeowners, who are interested in renting out a room or spot on their land, but they’re hesitant to put it out there publicly that they would consider that, and perhaps the registry can be a middle person to provide that kind of support and also provide information to homeowners about what they can do to prevent problems with tenants, how to choose a tenant etc. I think I can see that being difficult for some homeowners, and so I would like to explore options to help them feel more comfortable renting to somebody.” 

“In 2017, when I was with FOCI, we partnered with a consultant out of Victoria and did the transportation demand study for Cortes. The gap that we weren’t able to address, if we had one here on Cortes or on Quadra, is operating budgets.” 

“I was working with the Community Bus Coalition, which is a little ad hoc group made up of a bunch of islands (Galliano, Gabriola, Bowen).  A really effective group. They were basically sending briefing notes to the transportation minister to try and get  more support for community buses. We all pay taxes into the BC transit system, but do we all benefit from that? No, we don’t. The rural areas are really left out of that.” 

“It’s not official, but my source tells me there is an announcement coming up that will actually advance a lot of these ideas for rural areas on Vancouver Island. So I’m really excited to work on that for CCEDA as well.” 

“Another area is business mentorship and skills training. This  came up through my work with the Village Commons. We have received a bunch of funding to advance the Village Commons and part of that funding includes business mentorship. The Village Commons  is intended to provide gathering space and also commercial space for vendors and local entrepreneurs. We don’t have the office, retail, studio space. That was identified as a gap in the local economic action plan of CCEDAs. Now we’ve got the funding, so I will be helping with that.”

“I’m interested in advancing the work that Filipe Figuera started when he was CCEDA’s coordinator last year. He was creating a bookkeeping program for locals and  there was a lot of people that signed up for that.  I would really love to take what Filipe did and advance it more because he did some good work with that.”

“There’s other skills training that we could do. I’ve worked with the skills training funds before when I did the forestry skills training.” 

“We’re going to be releasing the Value Added Wood Processing recommendations for Cortes Island at 7 AM, Monday, May 15 in Manson’s Hall. That project is going to end and I’m going to be helping the Community Forest Co-Op advance those recommendations.” 

“We want to update the Local Economic Action Plan (LEAP) for Cortes. That LEAP report is about five years old now, and it can  serve as a quasi official community plan but we do need to continually check in with the community about where they wan to go with economic development on the island.” 

“This is a team approach.  Colin Funk is the President on the CCEDA board, and along with the other board members including Amy Robertson and Barend Van der Vorm – great people, I really need them – is amazing at helping direct my activities in this role.”

“I think that Colin was really instrumental in spearheading the local economic action plan, and I refer to LEAP quite a bit in any grants that I’m writing.”

“When you are looking for evidence of what the community wants, and funders really look for that, you need to provide evidence of what the community wants. That’s why we do these public engagements. They’re really important.”

“Some people are a little bit frustrated, we put all this energy into these reports, and what do they do? They sit on the shelf. Well, no, that’s not actually correct. People like me and other people who are trying to advance these projects, absolutely need those reports and those community engagements to direct our actions. It’s not what Kate wants, it’s what the community wants. So updating LEAP is another one.”

“Climate Action – That was on the list in that recent public announcement of this position. There’s some gaps on the island , a lot of climate action isn’t being initiated.”

“At the RIEP  forum last week, I met one of the authors of the climate action document for Salt Spring and that’s through Transition Salt Spring. It’s an amazing group. Go on the website. They’re doing amazing things and so is ICAN on Quadra. I love what those guys do with climate action, water securityfood security and the transportation announcement that’s coming up is going to be a really great thing to do for climate action as well.” 

“Regenerative tourism – There’s so many things we could do.  Getting people out of their cars is a big one. Having people come over to have  tourist experiences on Cortes on the e-bike for example.  I was recently involved with the museum who are about to launch their Garden and Studio Tour, and I just kind of threw it out there, ‘Why don’t you advertise it as an amazing e-bike experience and give people ideas of where they can rent an e-bike.”

“We’re in touch with Jack over on Quadra. He’s got e-bikes for rent at Island Cycle.  There’s so many things that we could do to have experiences over here that don’t take away from the community. Experiences that actually support the community, and relieve ferry pressure.” 

CC: “Last year I was hearing  about a cycle trail that went through Cortes, through Quadra, down to Campbell River, over to Comox, over to Powell River, to Lund, and back to Cortes. it’s called the North Salish Cycle Route, but I haven’t heard anything about that since.” 

KM: “I haven’t heard that, sounds amazing though.” 

“This whole idea is fashioned off of the Farm Cycle Tour in the Comox Valley. it’s promoting the very same thing that we’re trying to do here on the island for the Garden and Studio tour. It’s just great that we have so many people with e-bikes these days because it does offer some new opportunities for people, for tourist experiences that, again, support the community instead of taking away from it.” 

“I’m looking forward to coming up with more ideas to stimulate regenerative tourism on Cortes.”

“Another thing on that list was the Village Commons and how CCEDA can help advance that development. As you know the new owners of the Village Commons land is the Cortes Foundation, and we have agreed to be active partners in that development.  I’ve been involved with the Village Commons development quite a bit in the past couple years, and so I think it’s important to contribute to the furthering of that project.  It’s  a transfer of information, ideas and energy that CCEDA can support the foundation with.” 

CC: “There’s also strengthening partnerships with nonprofits and the Klahoose First Nation.” 

“CCEDA is going to continue to be involved with the social profit network. There’s a in-person gathering coming up on Tuesday, June 20 at Hollyhock and we’re going to be involved in that.”

Klahoose First Nation – through the Village Commons, we’ve included a welcome pole in that project. I started talking with Chief Steven Brown about that, and how to really bring that incredible cultural connection to the Village Commons and to downtown Manson’s Landing. I’m really looking forward to being involved in that and, I think it’s just going to be a really great way to try and develop further working relationships with the Klahoose.”  

“Also the Value Added Project will involve work with the Klahoose.  We’ve already met with Kevin Peacey about how the Forestry Co-op can support value added in partnership with the Klahoose. I look forward to seeing where that goes too.”

“I just wanted to say  the title of this position is  Economic Development Officer,  I am not really wild about the title, but there are EDOs, it’s called an EDO –  Economic Development Officer – all over the place. I really look forward to connecting with other EDOs that have been hired across the region  and supporting each other and sharing ideas and so on for our communities.”

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Photo credit: Christian Gronau

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