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Squamish a contender for TV show

Village on a Diet producers looking to do show about personal finances

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They have helped Taylor, B.C. shed some weight, and now they want Squamish to shed its inhibitions about money.

At a recent town hall meeting at the Adventure Centre, executives from Force Four Entertainment laid before 100 Squamish residents the broad contours of their new show: save money, increase wealth, live your dream, and yes, get to know your neighbour to create a better, tighter community.

Curiosity - and enthusiasm - about the show was palpable as producers answered questions about the show, from the birth of the idea to the potential embarrassment of discussing one's finances on T.V., to why Squamish was being considered and what happens after the show is over.

In the excitement, it was easy to forget that Squamish is just one of the three other communities shortlisted for the show, which will go into production this summer. The finalist will be announced in the coming few weeks.

The show, to air on the Oprah Winfrey Network, aims for nothing less than to transform the town. Three experts will advise residents for as many months on money matters, from managing debt to saving money to creating wealth and sharing it with the community.

"It's about what you want to accomplish for yourself, but is also about growing the health of the community," said Sean De Vries, head of development for the show.

And just as Taylor citizens sweated to lose a collective one-ton, the residents of Squamish will be prodded to flex their financial muscles to save a collective $1 million by the end of the three months.

"We want this to be about community, about collaboration and we want the community to decide what they would want to do with that money," De Vries said.

There would be no limit on citizens who would want to be part of the show, although he said a broad range of demographics would make for a better show.

As financial situations are assessed, participants will be given challenging tasks to complete. Someone who is spending a lot on gas, De Vries said, might be asked to carpool to work for three weeks.

When the show's producers cast a net, Squamish floated above others as a compelling candidate.

Along with traditional forestry jobs, the past decade has seen thousands of well-paying jobs lost as Woodfibre, B.C. Rail and Interfor gave way to nothingness.

As a post-Olympic lull metastasized, more and more Squamish residents were forced to look for work outside Squamish, making the town a bedroom community of Vancouver and Whistler.

But despite all this, or perhaps because of it, something else has stirred in Squamish: Entrepreneurship that is slowly but assuredly steering the town's direction to something new and exciting, even if yet unformed.

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