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A world first: Annapolis Valley certified as ‘Smart and Sustainable Rural Region’

Mi’kmaw in the Valley believe Kluskap resides on Cape Blomidon. File
The Annapolis Valley has been officially certified as a "Smart and Sustainable Rural Region" by the World Council on City Data. - File photo

World Council on City Data ISO certification two years in the making

KENTVILLE, N.S. —

It’s official: the Annapolis Valley has been certified as the world’s first “Smart and Sustainable Rural Region.”

The Gold Certification by the World Council on City Data under ISO 37120 puts the Valley in the top ranks of cities around the globe – only the Valley isn’t a city.

Valley Regional Enterprise Network (REN) chairman David Ritcey said that the certification will set the Annapolis Valley apart as a rural region.

“That’s a pretty significant accomplishment in my mind,” he said. “I think the key thing is that it’s global affirmation of our many regional assets here in the Valley.”

Ritcey said it’s important to get the message out to the entire world that we have these advantages, and that is what the Valley REN plans to do with this endorsement. It essentially acts as a trigger to begin a marketing campaign to heavily promote the Annapolis Valley.

The WCCD has primarily worked with urban centres, 100 cities in 38 countries, to build high caliber, ISO standardized data. It is certifying cities reporting data in accordance with ISO 37120, the first ISO standard for cities.

Ritcey said that since the Valley is a rural region, the data points will be very unique compared to cities. A lot of people are moving here from all around the world. Ritcey believes that this type of certification, if promoted properly, will continue a trend of people moving here from larger urban centres. He said there’s no reason why these people wouldn’t be attracted by our rural lifestyle.

“They can sell their homes and move away from a congested, very dense city environment and live at a nice pace here in the Annapolis Valley, with all our attributes,” Ritcey said.

He said the level of economic activity in the Valley over the past year or so has been “phenomenal.”

“We’re dealing with a less than one per cent vacancy rate. We’re cooking here economically,” Ritcey said.

He said the Valley REN recognized the opportunity to go after WCCD certification a couple of years ago and it’s taken a while to navigate the process. Data had to be gathered and measurements had to be calculated.

“In my mind, it’s a starting point because it’s going to allow us to measure our progress hence forth, so that is going to be a good thing for the Valley moving forward,” Ritcey said.

The Valley REN is already working to attract people to the area to live and work, so he believes the certification fits very well with this. Considering the region’s larger employers, there will be some 600 job vacancies in the Valley over the next few years, so it’s very important to bring in new labour force participants.

“This data will really help us promote many positive things for our area and hopefully satisfy those workforce needs,” Ritcey said.

IMPORTANT TO MAINTAIN

Kings County Mayor Peter Muttart said the certification is an international standards measurement that helps put the Annapolis Valley first on the radar for people looking to establish in a rural region.

It signals to people looking at the Valley from educational, business, employment or lifestyle perspectives that the region has met standards set by the WCCD and is working to progress further with regard to those criteria.

“We have to be very diligent in keeping up our standards,” Muttart said. “We’ve attained this standard but you have to maintain and continue to enhance your progress in those areas that allowed you to qualify for the standard in order to retain it.”

He said it’s important that the various stakeholders continue to act together as a region to ensure that the standards – and the certification – is maintained. By doing so, the Annapolis Valley can be advertised to the world as an ISO-certified “Smart and Sustainable Rural Region” and people looking at the area can be confident that ISO criteria is being met.

Muttart credits i-Valley president Terry Dalton and co-founder Barry Gander for making contacts with the WCCD. WCCD president and CEO Dr. Patricia McCarney visited the area and met with all the mayors from the region in the Kings County council chambers.

Muttart said it was clear that it would be beneficial to our area if we could become the first rural area that qualified for the certification. He believes the fact that the Valley is the first rural region to be certified makes the distinction even more powerful.

“I’m certain that others will be very anxious to replicate what we have done,” Muttart said. “They have to recognize what it takes to get to that level and what it takes to sustain their qualification at that level.”

Muttart said the certification is a “foot in the door” in terms of increasing the level of cooperation among Valley municipalities or working toward true regionalization.

STATEMENT MADE

In a recent news release, i-Valley president Terry Dalton said now that the data has been gathered and the certification achieved, it would be easier to keep going. The certification will be “valuable as a measurement of progress and a way to promote inter-regional cooperation.”

He said they are indebted to all the municipal CAO’s and mayors in Valley communities who worked hard on the project. Dalton also acknowledged the skilled work of principal researcher Amin Helal.

“The Annapolis Valley has made a statement not only for itself but for all the rural communities around the world that can now follow this example,” Dalton said.

WCCD president and CEO Dr. Patricia McCarney said the recognition would “help to position the Annapolis Valley as a smart, sustainable, prosperous and inclusive community.”

The high-calibre, standardized and independently verified data on the Valley “will also become attractive for investors from around the world.”

The Valley joins centres such as Amsterdam, London, Boston, Quebec City, Los Angeles and Taipei in being certified by the WCCD. Certification involves 100 indicators, clustered around 17 themes such as finance, governance, environment, shelter, health and education.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

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