A group of investors proposing a new passenger foot ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver feels comfortable with their business plan but is still lining up funding for the venture, according to the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation.
NEDC CEO Sasha Angus said the group, Island Ferries, was previously looking at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Green Municipal Fund as a source of financing. However, he said the group is now looking at raising the funds elsewhere.
It is not known what level of investment is being contemplated for the venture, but Angus said that securing the financial resources for the project is "for the most part" the last hurdle before the project can move to the next phase.
"We're working through it," Angus said. "It's close."
"From an economic development standpoint, it's huge," he said. The connection would benefit the tourism sector, and would also open up Nanaimo as a potential "bedroom community" for people who commute to Vancouver for work while living in the Harbour City, he added.
"I think they're really confident in their business plan, and part of that is that they've taken a look at the trips to and from the Lower Mainland, and they're very confident in their ability to make a business out of it," Angus said. "Obviously they know that it's going to be a new asset for the community, and something that they hope the community would embrace."
Donna Hais, general manager of Bob Wall Construction, said the topic of a foot passenger ferry linking Nanaimo to the Lower Mainland has been a hot topic among many of her clients.
"We talk to lots of business people who want to locate here, or who have businesses here but work other places, and. .. connectiveness and transportation is critical to them being successful and deciding to buy a home here," she said.
"I think there's a demand," she said.
Mayor John Ruttan said he has not had any recent discussions with the group, but said he made a point of drawing attention to the proposed downtown hotel project, which is expected to draw 70,000 tourists into the downtown core a year.
"Obviously it's a wonderful opportunity for Nanaimo," he said. "I know they're doing everything they can to make this thing go."
Coun. George Anderson chairs the city's transportation and said establishing a ferry service between the two cities has been a longtime priority for Nanaimo.
"I think it's something that we need to look at," he said.
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