November 6, 2009
Northern British Columbia will soon celebrate five years of investments by the Northern Development Initiative Trust to help the regions’ communities reach their economic potential.
In five short years, forty communities, nine regional districts and thirty-eight First Nations communities across 70% of BC have collectively seen 451 projects successfully funded by Northern Development.
The return on the BC Government’s initial investment of $185 million will soon top 28%. Over $43 million in capital has been invested into communities and businesses from Lytton north to Fort Nelson, and from Valemount west to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Beyond this capital working in communities, a further $11 million has been committed in the short term from the Trust and $30 million from the Federal Government to the regional economy. That is almost $84 million, with 52% loans and 48% grants that will attract over $443 million in capital investment in the region. Not only that, but the current capital balance is $179 million including $18 million in loans receivable, which is very close to the starting balance of $185 million. This is a sustainable fund that, over time, is progressively investing more in the region and less in market investments.
Without the Northern Development Initiative Trust as a catalyst, $40 million would not have been attracted from the Federal Government, business and foundations for direct delivery in the region. This was a result of the Trust’s strong reputation and highly efficient and effective administration at a very low overhead of less than 1%. Nowhere else can any level of government deliver programs at such a low administrative cost. The delivery of $30 million in Community Adjustment Funds, which will result in over 1,500 jobs, is the first time in Canada that the Federal Government has directly contracted program delivery outside a federal entity or provincial government.
The Northern BC Business Advantage with its two business programs has committed $5.3 million into training at eleven manufacturing businesses. They in turn are creating 607 new jobs and spending $47 million in capital investment.
In addition, through our partnership program with the Business Development Bank of Canada, forty-two businesses are receiving consulting expertise to increase their competitiveness and profitability in areas of strategic market coaching, operational projects, export development, business planning, and health and safety systems development. Over $286,000 has been committed from the Competitiveness Consulting Rebate program to cost share valuable consulting expertise for these manufacturing companies who are the base to grow our economy and jobs in the north.
Northern Development has also invested $9.4 million of its funding into sixty-seven community and business ventures directly led or funded by First Nations.
Within the seven community funding programs, the economic investments into the region include:
Economic Development Infrastructure
The Economic Diversification Infrastructure program totalling eighty-five projects with $39 million committed across twenty-five communities, seven regional districts and three First Nations, directly invests in the construction of infrastructure that diversifies the economy. This includes three major airport expansions, completion of the Haida Heritage Centre, Cariboo Tourism Discovery Centre, the Terrace Sportsplex, and rural high speed internet in remote areas of the north coast, among many other projects.
Feasibility Studies or Marketing
Forty-nine grants of up to $20,000 each have been invested in that demonstrate a strong business case for an infrastructure project that will diversify and provide direct measurable economic benefits to the local economy, or marketing programs that will increase revenues within the region. In total, $1.7 million has benefited over twenty-three communities and supported federal and provincial funding for projects including the Northwest Transmission Line, ‘Build Canada’ infrastructure projects, the Dawson Creek Performing Arts Centre, Gold Country Tourism Geocaching Program, and a business case for improvements along Highway 97 from Quesnel to Dawson Creek.
Five grants totalling $67,442 have been provided to four communities to plan and implement targeted industry attraction programs. From Terrace’s efforts to attract the poly-silicon industry to Dawson Creek preparing a business case for wind turbine manufacturing, northern communities feel more control of their destinies with this funding program.
Economic Development Capacity Building
Northern Development pays an annual dividend of $35,000 each from the Economic Development Capacity Building program to municipalities and regional districts to ensure stable economic development funding and support collaborative economic development projects. Over the past two years, thirty-nine communities and six regional districts have received $2.5 million in funding. Communities have examined tax structure and its role in business attraction, collaborated to increase economic development staff capacity and introduced new local business retention programs.
Grant Writing Support
Each municipality, regional district or First Nation is eligible to apply annually on a first come, first served basis to a $405,000 fund which will provide $7,500 grants to assist the community to hire a four month grant writer to apply for funding to any source to meet community needs. This program has the highest return on investment for any of the community programs. $661,000 in grant writer funding over the last two years has employed eighty-nine grant writers in thirty communities, four rural areas, and twenty-eight First Nations. Communities have been successful in receiving over $9 million in grants as a direct result of this program. Funding research support and web based training seminars are available at no cost from Northern Development. So far, over 840 grant writers have been trained across the north.
Community Halls and Recreation Facilities
Community Halls and Recreation Facilities are the life blood of any rural community and host the weddings, training events, small conferences and fundraisers that generate revenue for non-profit groups and the hospitality and service sector across rural BC. Across thirty communities, Northern Development has funded a total of $3.5 million in grants and loans to maintain and expand these facilities and their vital role in the rural economy.
Without a local community foundation, there are few opportunities to invest intergenerational wealth to benefit the social needs of rural communities and help them to ‘help themselves’. From a baseline of only four community foundations across 70% of the province, Northern Development has supported the development of fourteen more new community foundations with up to $50,000 in matching funds. A total of $791,388 from Northern Development has matched $1 million fundraised in communities to ensure that a local community foundation is a perpetual source of funding to deliver program grants to non-profit groups that make such a difference in the quality of life in our region.
Results at Work
Whether you measure the huge amount of Northern Development capital invested in the economy on a sustainable basis, new capital investment drawn to the region, or the more than 3,000 permanent jobs that have been created over the past five years, this regional economic development trust is having a vast and positive impact.
With 75% of our projects in communities smaller than 5,000 and innovative Grant Writer Support Programs, central and northern BC is able to access more funding than ever before possible. This Trust acts as a catalyst to bring communities together with one voice and vision for economic investments across this region. The pride of making decisions “in the north – for the north” and the efficiency of the merit-based funding process is a success story across Canada that northern BC should take immense pride in.