Council's strategic plan for 2016 is built on seven major issues affecting the community of Houston:
With the impact of the reduced Allowable Annual Cut in the Morice Timber Supply area, Council recognizes that the forest industry will be faced with difficult decisions in the near future. As forestry is the primary employer in Houston, the District recognizes that the local economy is vulnerable to any market adjustments which may occur in the future.
As such, Council has determined that it will pursue economic diversification as a strategic objective. The first task will be to host a facilitated discussion on this issue, as well as engaging with residents and businesses to identify new growth areas within the local economy. The process will also act as a way to focus the efforts of the Economic Development Committee and to focus the Houston Economic Development Strategy on key areas of growth.
Council has determined that ensuring residents have access to quality, accessible healthcare is a top priority for the District, and will be investigating ways to improve the recruitment and retention of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, with the goal of securing 24/7 healthcare for Houston residents.
The next steps for this initiative will be to work with Northern Health and the University of Northern British Columbia to attract new healthcare professionals to our community, and to look at how to improve access to healthcare services in Houston.
Having a dedicated team working for the District of Houston is critical to the municipality's success and its ability to accomplish the goals and objectives stated in this plan. Council will be reviewing how to improve the retention of employees as well as plan for future vacancies within the organization.
A vibrant community is deserving of a vibrant downtown, and Council has determined to work with the business community to improve the look and feel of our downtown core. If feedback is positive, the District will investigate the next steps for beautifying the downtown core.
Some areas which Council will be looking at include the current Business Façade Improvement Program, adding hanging baskets and trees to the downtown core, trees screening the highway, and improvement to business facades. These items were confirmed in a stakeholder consultation meeting held in July 2016.
The District of Houston's municipal airport offers the community a potential source of economic growth potential. The District will be evaluating how to market and use the airport as an alternative to the busier airports of Smithers and Burns Lake, including use as a heliport and as a landing strip for private and industrial flights.
In 2016, the District applied for Rural Dividend Funding through the Province of British Columbia to conduct a feasibility study of the airport to look at how to best improve and market the airport to improve its usage.
The District has a bounty of parks with great potential to be signature spaces for recreation and events in our community. To plan out a vision for the parks and open spaces in our community, the District will be pursuing the development of anew Parks Master Plan to act as a guiding document for recreation services in our community.
Recognizing that community development is a complex and difficult task, and that various groups have expertise, insights and advantages which the District may not have, partnership development was identified as a key point in the District's strategic plan. As such, Council will strive to develop new partnerships and maintain existing partnerships with various community groups, businesses, First Nations and other external agencies. The primary focus will be to strengthen the relationships with these groups in order to improve the District's community development capacity and resiliency at all levels.
Council has held meetings through several Council Committees, conducted community consultation meetings, and has met with representatives of Provincial Ministries, First Nations, and agencies such as CN Rail and Northern Health in order to build on new and existing partnerships.