Over $1 Million Invested in Vanderhoof’s Economic Diversification

PRINCE GEORGE, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA – Sept. 5, 2008 – If you build it, they will come. That’s the strategy behind four Northern Development Initiative Trust (Northern Development) funding announcements aimed at promoting sport and tourism in Vanderhoof. Vanderhoof’s field of dreams is a premier playing field with a six?lane running track and stadium seating. On Sept. 4, Northern Development announced $336,000 toward the first phase of the development at Nechako Valley Secondary School. "It will be able to host large events in a very central location, close to the downtown core," Vanderhoof Mayor Len Fox said. "The other aspect of the sports field is part of that overall quality of life."

Northern Development Board and John Rustad announcing great news
Northern Development’s Board of Directors with MLA John Rustad at the Sept. 4 community announcement

Phase one will see the construction of the playing field, running track and two washrooms. The estimated cost of the project is $1.16 million. It is being funded by Northern Development, District of Vanderhoof, B.C. Olympic Live Sites, the Nechako-Kitimat Development Fund and School District 91. Construction of phase one is expected to be complete by Nov. 30. Phase two of the project, which is set for future development, will see the construction of change rooms, a concession and administration building, bleachers and fencing. Once complete, user groups anticipate hosting regional competitions in soccer, football, rugby, track and field, and lacrosse at the facility. This sport tourism is expected to generate $125 per visitor per day for local retail and service businesses.

Northern Development also announced $247,000 toward an $882,000 revitalization strategy for the town’s downtown area. It’s the fourth phase of a downtown revitalization strategy which began in 2003, Fox said. Burrard Avenue will receive a makeover from Columbia Street to Victoria Avenue, including new fixtures, sidewalks, lighting, drainage and landscaping.

Vanderhoof Chamber of Commerce manager Erin Siemens said the downtown revitalization is already paying dividends for local businesses. Tourism numbers were up in June and August compared to previous years. "We do have more people interested in walking though the downtown," Siemens said. "It’s definitely had a positive effect, because it looks nicer as you walk around."

A $1.6 million upgrade to the Vanderhoof Municipal Airport will improve access and create new economic opportunities in the region. The project, which is slated to be complete by November 2009, will see the installation of runway lighting and GPS navigation systems. The upgrade will allow aircraft to use the airport day and night, in most weather conditions. "The pine beetle has created a need to diversify our economy," Vanderhoof Mayor Len Fox said. "We’re working on 15 projects to achieve that, and this is one of the key ones."

The Northern Development Initiative Trust partnered with the District of Vanderhoof, Western Economic Diversification Canada, B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Nechako-Kitimat Development Fund to finance the project. On Sept. 4, Northern Development announced over $466,000 in grants and interest-free loans for the development.

Currently the airport only has one year?round commercial user, Fox said. A report conducted for the district in 2005 indicated the expansion could generate up to 25 direct jobs in Vanderhoof and contribute $2 million in economic activity.

One use being considered for the upgraded runway is the development of a professional flying school. Northern Development has provided $17,806 for the College of New Caledonia to fund a feasibility study on the concept.