Contest woos creative workers to Kaslo

Fun stunt highlights serious concern for rural B.C. towns

Hey, Gen-Xers and Millennials! Tired of impossibly expensive real estate, traffic gridlock, crime, pollution, and stress in the big city?

A rural B.C. group is holding a contest to try to attract young professionals like you to small towns in the province’s Interior. The winner of the “Escape the City” contest wins a four-day stay this summer in Kaslo.

“Small towns in rural B.C. are in big trouble. Many of our towns have a population drain,” says Randy Morse, the communications director for the BC Rural Centre. “It’s really designed to shed light on the fact that the current enormous population imbalance, especially when it comes to younger people in our province, can be somehow addressed.”

To enter, the young creative professional has to create a two-minute video describing why he or she may want to move to Kaslo, and what they can contribute to the community.

“During their stay they’ll be immersed in Kaslo life, visiting the school, meeting local entrepreneurs and business owners, joining a neighbourhood outdoor potluck complete with funky Kootenay-style live music, checking out available real estate, and enjoying a range of activities tailored to their interests,” the news release states.

While in the village, the winner would be expected to tweet, live-blog, Instagram, and do all the other social media things internet-savvy professionals do. While anyone can enter, the group is targeting creative knowledge workers in the 21- to 45-year-old category.

“The idea is to have fun, but the intent at the end is serious,” says Morse. “We believe this is a good way to remind these folks in these demographics that they have viable options, they can come to Nakusp or Kaslo and do the work they do where they are living today, but in a place with a much higher quality of life.”

With its incredible scenery, vibrant community life, and gigabyte-per-second internet coming this summer, Morse says there’s a lot to attract young professionals, their families and companies to a town like Kaslo.

The ultimate goal is to try to halt the slow decline that has gripped many of these communities, he says.

“Young people graduate from high school, they move out and they quite often don’t come back,” he says. “And new young people don’t come out to replace them. So the result is the population is growing increasingly older, that places downward pressure on schools, and it skews the kind of health care facilities we might have, if any.

“It’s a complicated issue, there’s no one easy fix, but one piece of the puzzle is to begin to remind some young creative professionals in major centres that there is life outside the big city and that they might be interested in a higher quality of life, a lifestyle that isn’t quite as stressed, quite as frenetic, as the one they are currently experiencing in those major centres.”

Morse knows that from personal experience. He moved to Kaslo with his wife 13 years ago not knowing a soul, he says, “because it was so damned gorgeous.” But he stayed, he says, because of the people.

“Quite often people who move like this to Nelson, Kaslo or Nakusp move here not only for financial reasons, but they also appreciate what the local culture offers them,” he says. “It’s not just access to nature, which is a huge bonus, but also the human culture. The access to the quirky, colourful characters our towns tend to boast.”

Morse isn’t sure how many people will enter the contest, but the idea is generating a buzz.

“We are targeting Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton and Calgary, but of course social media goes everywhere, so who knows where responses are going to come in from?” he says.

The contest is open until Friday, April 13. You can find out more on their website, https://www.bcruralcentre.org/

The BC Rural Centre is a information resource for rural residents and organizations. It has representatives from First Nations, Regional Districts, and other government bodies from across the Southern and Central Interior.

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