Getting communities online creating economic boom in the Kootenays

A new report says connecting homes and businesses to the internet will add hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kootenay economy over the next two decades.

The Kootenay Connectivity Benefits Study, released last month, says every dollar spent on building connectivity means a windfall for government, business and individuals.

“In total, it is estimated that the initial provincial investment of $19.4 million in connectivity in the Kootenay region will generate $281 million in short- and long-term economic benefits to the Province and the region,” says the report by BC Stats, the provincial government’s research wing. “That is 14 times the initial provincial investment and creates a $14,800 benefit per capita for newly connected households.”

The study looked at the impact of funding to the Kootenay region since 2020, when 24 projects began to connect around 10,500 households.

It found that for every dollar spent by the Province, five dollars were invested by the public and private sector. That in turn created jobs and more investment, from short-term hiring for construction to longer-term jobs created by the new connectivity, to increased GDP for local spending by people employed as a result of those new jobs and businesses.

“The study showed that connectivity funding to support the expansion of high-speed internet to underserved rural areas can have both positive short- and long-term impacts in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the region and for BC,” the report’s summary states.

Just the short-term construction projects will bring $56.2 million in GDP increases, 429 new jobs and $777,000 in new municipal tax revenue.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice