Coal, Snow and Million Dollar Homes: Rural Economic Development via Global Industries in British Columbia

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Economic diversification is critical for sustained economic development, particularly for raw materials-dependent areas, but these efforts typically face many obstacles. This paper examines an economic diversification effort in one area of British Columbia in the 1990s and 2000s to shift away from dependence on coal mining for export to Asia via the creation of a tourism and recreational home industry, mainly based on the ski industry. This diversification effort seems both contradictory and incompatible, with five major coal mines located upstream from a globally popular ski destination that has received hundreds of millions of dollars of investment. These contradictory processes make this a particularly important case for examining rural economic development efforts that involve very different views and uses of natural and social landscapes and apparently quite different potentials for long term sustainability.

The two research questions are: 1) how do the characteristics of the coal industry shape socioeconomic development? 2) How have efforts to diversify via another global industry, tourism, affected these communities? I employ a variety of methods, including interviewing coal company executives, managers, and miners, tourism and real estate industry professionals and employees, community residents, and local, provincial and national government officials, community observations, and constructing a database on the tourism and recreational home industry.


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