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Carly Pereboom and George Hanson have been hired to lead two key Nanaimo economic organizations as the city builds its future.

New faces are joining two key Nanaimo economic organizations as some sectors rebound from the pandemic while others grapple with challenges amid changing conditions.

Carly Pereboom starts May 1 as executive director for ­Tourism Nanaimo. She has spent seven years working on destination brand development and marketing in the Campbell River area.

“My approach is one of collaboration, curating advocacy from the ground up, creating pride of place and positive sentiment with locals and visitors alike,” she said.

The City of Nanaimo is counting on tourism to be an economic generator for the future, especially now that a long-planned hotel has opened downtown. The Courtyard by Marriott Nanaimo caters to Vancouver Island ­Conference Centre delegates, as well as other visitors.

A planned walk-on ferry service starting in late summer between downtown Nanaimo and downtown Vancouver is also expected to deliver a major boost to the visitor sector.

“Last year saw a strong rebound in the Nanaimo economy,” Amrit Manhas, Nanaimo’s economic development officer, said in a report on the state of the city’s economy. “Slower growth is expected in 2023 due to higher interest rates driving down housing, construction and consumer demand.”

Tourism showed a strong rebound last year and visitor numbers are moving closer to pre-pandemic numbers, Manhas told council.

The conference centre saw significant improvement with delegate days rising to 17,488 last year, up from 6,571 in 2021.

At hotels and motels, the average occupancy, average daily room rate and revenue per room all climbed last year compared to 2021.

Over at the Nanaimo ­Prosperity Corporation, the city’s new economic development agency, George Hanson has been hired as its strategic adviser. He previously served as the ­president and chief ­executive of the ­Vancouver Island Economic ­Alliance.

His one-year term will see Hanson start working on the city’s economic development strategy as the organization gets established and prepares to hire a permanent executive director.

“A focused results-oriented approach will be used to deliver the corporation’s single goal — a prosperous Nanaimo — while complementing and ­supporting the other four goals in the city plan for a green, connected, health and empowered ­Nanaimo,” Hanson said in a statement.

Manhas’s report pointed to Nanaimo’s strong growth, saying an average of 3,400 new residents moved to the region each year over the past five years.

Half arrived from elsewhere in B.C., 34 per cent from other provinces and the remainder from other countries.

Population data show that the city’s largest growth in the next decade is expected to be among those 25 to 44 years old.

Construction — a key indicator for the economy — saw building permit values rise to $410.3 million in 2022, up 51 per cent from 2021 and coming in at the second highest level on record.

Housing starts also indicated strength, with a total of 1,184 last year, up by nine per cent from 2021.

Similar to other cities, ­Nanaimo is seeing more apartment-style and row dwellings geting underway, accounting for 77 per cent of new housing starts. Multi-family units tend to be more affordable than single-family detached homes.

Manhas said that the cost of borrowing is expected to undermine homeownership demand through this year.

The number of jobs in the city climbed by 10.8 per cent between the 2016 and 2021 censuses, with most job growth in the service-producing sectors, she said. Health care and social assistance together delivered 1,500 new jobs, followed by ­educational services at 685.

Income levels in Nanaimo are below typical levels in the province.

The average household income last year in the city was $97,055, while the provincial average was $118,490.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com





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