Port Alberni: On its way up

After Port Alberni ranked dead last on our list, one entrepreneur took action

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Port Alberni

(alaskapine/Flickr)

When Port Alberni, B.C., ranked dead last in MoneySense’s annual Best Places to Live in 2014 due to its high crime rate, rainy weather and high unemployment, Ben West—a Vancouver-based entrepreneur who grew up in Port Alberni—was furious. He responded by launching a social media campaign highlighting things Alberni residents love about this “awful” place, like arts festivals and kiteboard gatherings on the beach. The campaign was funny at fi rst, says West, cofounder of the app company Eventbase. But upon reflection, he admitted that while Port Alberni has its charms, it does suffer from problems, in particular the lack of high-paying jobs not tied to the forestry or fishing industries. So he took it upon himself to create one. Using $10,000 of his own money, West and his wife created a scholarship to enable a Port Alberni resident to take UBC’s social media management course. They also pledged to equip the winner with a suite of software tools, and provide assistance in building a portfolio of clients.

Tashia Potter, who had recently moved back to Port Alberni, was struggling to make ends meet when she won the contest eight months ago. Since then she has started her own social media consultancy and is earning well above the city’s median household income. She now counts property developer Townline and the South By South West music festival as clients—and she’s already contracting work out with plans to hire another person full time. One job isn’t enough to lift Port Alberni (No. 207 out of 209 cities this year) on our list, but West has shown how concerned citizens can have a real impact on quality of life in their hometowns.

5 comments on “Port Alberni: On its way up

  1. As a 36 year resident of the Alberni Valley who chose to move here in 1979, I was one of the many who were profoundly disappointed in last year’s assessment of my beloved city. The assessment criteria were pathetic and the research was sketchy, at best. I warmly invite the author(s) to contact me. You can stay in my 107 year old home and I will show you the many wonders of this paradise. Dare ya!

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  2. i have lived here for 56 years and have watched the changes occur. There are many beautiful things about port but that doesn’t always pay our bills. I have family members who have stayed here and put themselves through school to hold red seal tickets. When applying for jobs find that they are being given to workers from outside of port. Sad but true. Our younger generation have to travel to get better paying jobs or move away. Port alberni on its way up? For the young I hope this to be true. For me this will always be home.

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  3. I have lived in Port Alberni since 1965. While our community has economic and social struggles I to took offence at being called “the worst place to live”. Time and time again I have seen and been a part of many wonderful community events, from the arts to sports , educational to fundraisers and much more. I am proud to live in a community that rallies to help out its residents during tough times and supports many diverse groups. Hats off to the Wests for what they have done. Port Alberni may not be the most desirable place to live but certainly deserves a much higher place than it ranks and I think if the authors spent some time here they would leave with a much better over view od this “Community with a heart”.

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  4. That is one of the best stories I have heard come out of Port Alberni. Things are really changing here, I have noticed so many positive changes, new buisness starting up, crime rate is down and generally the population is alot happier. Keep up the great work you guys, people do notice when you do things positive. I love this town!!

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  5. Being here just a short time, my wife and I are absolutely in love with this town. The surrounding mountains are spectacular the water features are breathtaking. Other fabulous things are the numerous food stores, { the variety is awesome}, The traffic is extremely minimal driving is a pleasure, The wonderful differences in the neighborhoods especially the mixture of old and new houses. The people are friendly and interesting. Restaurants abound and the variety is excellent.
    The Quay is beautiful. I am sure as in most towns their are negatives but for my wife and I this town is fabulous.

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