(For me) the key is to always be listening, always be willing to collaborate and always be flexible.” – Rose Klukas, Economic Development Officer, City of Campbell River
In many ways, Rose Klukas chose an opportune time to have had her knee surgery. The forced rest at home between November 2020 and January 2021 meant she couldn’t see anyone or go anywhere. Not a big difference given those early pandemic days.
What might have been particularly challenging for Campbell River’s Economic Development Officer was the repetitious nature that stay-at-home orders had presented on our daily lives.
“What I love most about economic development is that it encompasses so many things and (normally) every day is different,” says Rose, who first started working in economic development from her hometown of Kitimat – long before economic development was recognized as a profession. “Every night I lay out my plans, knowing full well that when the day begins it will likely take a completely different turn.”
At the heart of what Rose enjoys most about her job is relationship-building. From helping to develop Kitimat’s industrial ecosystem during a period of significant interest in developing LNG in British Columbia, to fostering Campbell River’s small business community and encouraging a regional entrepreneurial network across Vancouver Island, Rose thrives in building connections and fostering collaborative solutions to both local and regional challenges.
“When I first came to Campbell River, in 2016, my role was a new in-house function and the city was new to me. I had to get to know the community – listen to the needs on the ground – before deciding where to best spend my energy.”
It didn’t take long for Rose to get a sense for what could be done. And in a very short time, she has already accomplished a lot, changing the way economic development is realized in her new hometown. Her work started by going on the ground, speaking with downtown businesses, seeking to better understand their needs and where the gaps may lie. Networking and professional development were consistently top of list.
Value of tech and entrepreneurship
Rose has a progressive, opportunity-driven mindset. She is guided by the desire to meet local business needs, particularly those of small businesses (defined in Canada as any business with fewer than 100 employees). But she is also focused on the future, seizing the momentum around the region’s rising technology and entrepreneurial ecosystems. Events of the past year have only amplified the need to preserve our small businesses — what Rose calls the “backbone of a community”– while also exploring new opportunities for economic diversification.
“Creating a diverse economy is critical. In Campbell River, our economy is rooted in the natural resource sector and it continues to be important. (But) I have also been working with our local business community to support growth in entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems in our region.”
By “supporting growth”, Rose bears humility. She has, in fact, planted and watered the seeds that have begun to blossom, even in the absence of fertile ground (or in the case of the tech industry, an absence of capital). In 2018, she spearheaded the Modern Entrepreneur professional development and networking series by tapping into connections with a range of successful American and Canadian tech entrepreneurs. They have come together to form the Campbell River Area Angel Group (CRAAG), who help fund the City’s NexStream tech challenge, entering its second year (in 2021). The range of international applicants (over 65) is a testament to the City’s burgeoning reputation as a place with opportunities and attraction for global markets.
“The (NexStream Tech) project shows that growing a technology and innovation ecosystem can happen outside large, urban centres,” says Rose.
On the marketing front, Rose’s accomplishments have also not gone unnoticed and reach well beyond the City’s limits. In 2020, she and her team won the top marketing prize at that year’s BC Economic Development Association (BCEDA) Summit. That same year, she also helped cement the partnership between eight island communities who banded together to form an investment attraction website, TechIsland.co, with help from the Vancouver Island Coast Economic Developers Association (VICEDA) where Rose sits as Executive Director. Once again, Rose demonstrates why collaboration and innovation are key to showcasing Vancouver Island communities as an enticing region to work, invest and innovate in.
Words to live by
“(The past year has) really showed that we can live and work everywhere,” says Rose.
And while the world may look quite a bit different than it did before the pandemic, or even before knee surgery, Rose’s philosophy remains the same.
“The key is to always be listening, always be willing to collaborate and always be flexible.”
Rose is the Economic Development Officer for the City of Campbell River. She is currently working on comprehensive strategic planning for the City’s economic development.
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