Although Smithers is about to lose both Zellers and Fields stores, opportunities abound for the town of 5,400 to expand its economy and the number of special retail boutiques that make it a shopping destination in northwest BC
Located approximately four hours west of Prince George, the Bavarian-style community is awash in tourism and recreation opportunities from skiing and snowboarding to mountain biking, hiking and fishing. Its picturesque location at the base of Hudson Bay Mountain and glacier, coupled with quaint, clean streets has already attracted professionals from across the country. In fact, Smithers has the second-most PhDs per capita out of any community in B.C. (Victoria has the most.)
Although the town’s Zellers and Fields stores are set to close their doors amid corporate changes, Smithers’ municipal and business leaders remain confident the town’s economy has nowhere to go but up.
In addition to being centrally located on Highway 16, which allows local companies to service northern B.C’s quickly expanding mining and mineral exploration sector, the town also boasts a regional airport with daily flights to Vancouver.
Smithers Regional Airport manager Rob Blackburn said the transportation hub is unique in B.C. in that it’s located along a key goods movement corridor but also has room to grow. In fact, the airport is sitting on 340 hectares of land, much of which remains undeveloped. Blackburn said the land is prime for shipping, logistics, service and airport-related development.
“Nothing would make me more happy than to see a hotel developed right outside of here,” said Blackburn.
The airport’s land package and affordable rates recently helped it catch some attention from Hollywood. In 2011, the Liam Neeson drama The Grey was shot in and around Smithers. The town also has a strong track record of producing successful businesses, including Bandstra Transportation, Hy-Tech Diamond Drilling and Central Mountain Air, among others.
With a world-class ski hill serving as the backdrop to the northern community, residents of Smithers are happy to point out theirs is a first-class lifestyle in a part of the province most British Columbians rarely visit.
“It has everything you need,” said Blackburn. “It’s all right here.”
Check out the video below for an on-the-ground review of Smithers’ Glacier Gulch hike by Northern Development staff ahead of a week of work.