January 30, 2009
The Northern Economic Summit in Prince George that was held just a week ago, was a resounding success if you measure it by the early sell out; the addition of over a 100 wait-listed hopefuls to an audience exceeding 600; the high calibre of presenters and the valuable networking that happened. But the telling value was in the focused two days invested by the Premier, provincial Ministers and MLAs from both parties to sincerely listen to a powerhouse audience of northern leadership. Business, First Nations and communities will see follow up to the Economic Summit dialogue and we hope that there will be future events of this calibre in the north at least every two years.
Late last fall when the Premier announced the Economic Summit with his 10 point plan on October 17th, few thought that over 600 corporate and community leaders from across BC would brave -25 degree weather to attend in Prince George. In fact, this conference was sold out well before the Vancouver edition of the Summit and was a huge step forward from the format of the Northern Resource Expo traditionally held the same week in January.
Comments from just a few leaders attending…
“The Northern Economic Summit proved to be an excellent forum to address and further issues important to the northern economy. It is important that as a level of government, we work closely with the Province in order to stimulate and grow our economic wealth. We should continue to hold similar forums on a regular basis.”
Mayor Dave Pernarowski, City of Terrace
“First Nations are integral to the partnerships that will drive this Provinces Economy forward, and this is the calibre of interactive summit that our governments find valuable.”
Hereditary Chief Elmer Derrick, Gitxsan Chief Negotiator and Director Ridley Terminals
“Great start…but there is much more to do. The practical actions after the conference are what is important.”
Leonard Legault, President Alterna Energy Inc.
“The Northern Economic Summit was a valuable and timely conference. Interdisciplinary interaction based on this model should happen at least bi-annually.”
Alice Maitland, Mayor Village of Hazelton
“To be able to attract this many business and community leaders from all over the north to an event of this magnitude in the midst of Winter is a testimony to the need for a coordinated response to this unprecedented attack on our economic prosperity. As a key contributor to this economic prosperity, the northern portion of our province needs the acute attention an event of this importance brings to it.”
John Winter, President & CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce
“The Summit was an outstanding success. At every session there was lots of time set aside to allow input from those attending.”
Jim Blake, Chair, Prince George Airport Authority
“The summit was a very vital and vibrant forum that really connected business, government and stakeholders and demonstrated the importance of working collectively to improve the economic outlook for British Columbia. Positive and refreshing. Looking forward to the next one.”
Russ Polsom, Blackwater Construction Co. Ltd, Chair of the Prince George Construction Association
“The energy and ideas evidenced at the Summit were strong indicators that the communities, industries and businesses in BC’s North can drive economic recovery as well or better than other regions. We came away from the Summit feeling that, given reasonable support from higher levels of government, we can fashion our own recovery from the current economic downturn. We just need the freedom, and the support through organizations like Northern Development, to get started. It was a very valuable gathering, one I hope will be repeated semi-regularly in the years to come.”
Mayor Bruce Lantz, City of Fort St. John
If you attended the conference and would like to provide your feedback, or ask that government consider a future summit of this calibre in the north, please email you comments to Janine North, CEO, Northern Development Initiative Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The responses will be collated together and submitted to the Premier, Ministers and MLA’s who attended the conference.
There have also been many requests for Janine North’s speaking notes on “The Northern Decade” at the Friday morning plenary session. Please find a transcript from the session below:
Janine North, Chief Executive Officer
Northern Development Initiative Trust
Making the next decade ‘the Northern Decade’ is the best investment to ensure long term provincial prosperity. Make no mistake about it – the north drives our economy. Rural BC produces 2/3 of provincial exports – the wealth and the revenue that funds our school and healthcare systems. Contrast that with Vancouver – a service and bureaucratic centre with ‘no internal means of support’ in the form of an economic and wealth creating industry – reliant upon the resources and wealth creation of rural and northern British Columbia.
In order for northern BC to be a knowledge-based resource economy connected to the world, here are only a few suggestions of what is needed:
This government made an incredible investment in moving $185 million into a sustainable Northern Development Initiative Trust, where decisions are made in the North – for the North.
It deserves huge credit for that investment in communities and business and their ability to jointly steward resources, but it also needs to look at why it is working, and how to transfer that community and business satisfaction to other initiatives where government wants to make a difference. Building a confident, robust economy in tough times takes strong vision, incredible purpose and will by government and the rest of us working together and not one more day that doesn’t achieve that goal.
Rural and northern BC is made up of people who work each day to drive the provincial economy and who want to believe that the next decade after the 2010 Olympics will finally be ‘the Northern Decade’. We don’t have the voting population, but we do drive the lifeblood of this provincial economy.
Remove barriers and invest in a knowledge based resource economy connected to the world, and we will take this province into a prosperous future.