2022 year in review - Newsletter

In this issue

In lieu of the regular monthly newsletter, Northern Development is celebrating a trio of projects and events that occurred in 2022.

Burning the mortgage.
Photo: North Pine Farmers Institute

On November 20, the North Pine Farmers Institute (NPFI) hosted a mortgage-burning party to celebrate their final payment on a $874,000 loan from Northern Development.

The loan was approved in November 2009 to support NPFI as they sought to save the last grain elevator in Fort St. John’s elevator row, supporting $40 – $50 million in economic activity for local farmers annually. If destruction of the grain elevator went through as originally planned, farmers would have to transport their combined 70,000 metric tons of crops via road to Dawson Creek or Alberta, increasing costs and emissions.

“Behind every strong community are strong minded men and women, with a passion for the future of their communities,” said Wade Cusack, NPFI president. “This includes willingly giving their time and experience to improve conditions of rural life, so that settlement may be permanent and prosperous for the farming communities. The North Pine Farmers Institute is proof that for over 92 years in hard times, strong people take on whatever challenge or hurdle, to build and sustain their communities.”

When NPFI acquired the grain elevator in December 2009, they gained an asset that has proven to provide long-term and far-reaching benefits to the North Peace agricultural community and consumers. Although the elevator had not been in operation for three years prior to the purchase, NPFI was able to complete repairs and upgrades to render it useful again. In 2009, the cost to replace the elevator was over $3 million. NPFI purchased the elevator and land and completed upgrades for approximately $1.6 million.

Ribbon cutting ceremony.
From left: Wade Cusack (NPFI president), Irmi Critcher (BC Grain Producers), Pat Pimm (MLA Peace River North), Evan Saugstad (former Northern Development chair), Arthur Holland, Larry Houley, Karen Goodings (PRRD director), Bruce Lantz, Blair Lekstrom (MLA Peace River South) and Maurice Fines (NPFI past president).
Photo: Alaska Highway News

“The North Pine Farmers Institute elevator committee’s dedication, with the support of all NPFI members and surrounding community, has made this project a success,” said Cusack. “By working with local and provincial governments, NPFI’s tenant and Canadian National Railway, the NPFI elevator increased from a 16-car spot to a 24-car spot. Every week, this contributes to over 700 tons of farmers’ grain to get on rail and off the crowded roadways. Thanks to Northern Development Initiative Trust who believed and supported our vision, this successful project became possible. Thank you from the North Pine Farmers Institute.”

The grain elevator has railhead access, allowing for convenient transportation of crops and reducing road traffic. From the facility in Fort St. John, product is transported by rail to terminals in Prince Rupert and Vancouver before heading to overseas markets.

The preservation of the concrete grain elevator maintained and created local jobs, supported producers, positively contributed to food security and benefited the local economy. Read our 2012 story about this project for more details: https://www.northerndevelopment.bc.ca/explore-our-region/success-stories/north-pine-farmers-institute-aquires-rail-head-and-elevator-in-fort-st-john/

Design rendering of the new ski lodge.
All photos: WLCCSC

In August, Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club (WLCCSC) broke ground on their highly-anticipated new ski lodge at the Bull Mountain Ski Area north of Williams Lake. First identified as a top priority in the WLCCSC’s 2016-2020 five-year plan, the 2,400-square foot lodge will be an attractive, modern and welcoming complement to a quality trail network.

“Finally breaking ground on our new ski lodge was a surreal moment,” said Robin Dawes, chair, Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club. “This project has brought together many enthusiastic volunteers, supporting community members and businesses. Bringing the new facility to fruition will be a truly inspiring community effort. Once complete, the lodge will be a cozy space, ideal for hosting events and for skiers to warm up after time on the trails or for parents to spend time together while children participate in lessons.”

As the ski area gained popularity in recent years, thanks in part to a robust introduction to skiing program with Williams Lake schools, the need for a better-equipped indoor space became even more apparent.

“As often happens with a successful initiative, the popularity began to strain the volunteers and facilities,” wrote a Williams Lake resident in a letter of support for the project. “As a result, the club finds itself requiring significant infrastructure upgrades to accommodate significantly increased skier numbers.”

The new community space will dramatically enhance the skiing and snowshoeing experience for those seeking affordable outdoor activity during the winter months. This will benefit residents and support labour attraction and retention in the Cariboo. For those visiting the area, they will have a comfortable place to warm up after time on the trails, develop social connections with other recreationalists and develop their skills.

“We anticipate that this project will increase club membership and encourage more Cariboo residents to take-up this low cost winter sport,” said Dawes. “With its completion we will join our skiing neighbours from 100 Mile and Quesnel in being able to offer wonderful facilities as well as wonderful trails and it will create an outstanding destination skiing corridor attractive to visitors near and far. I can’t express how excited we are.”

Skiers gather outside the former lodge, a 1980 Atco trailer.

The universally accessible, two-storey building replaces a wood-heated 1980 Atco trailer which did not provide adequate space for programing and equipment rentals. The addition of plumbing allows for an accessible bathroom to be included on both floors of the lodge, alongside a kitchen which will create new revenue generating opportunities. The walkout basement will provide a spacious ski rental space.

The lodge on January 11, 2023.

The lodge’s construction is progressing quickly, with much internal work being done and a recent inspection gave the go-ahead for drywall to be installed. Outside, the porch footings are about to be poured.

Northern Development supported this project by approving a $279,399 Recreation Infrastructure grant in February 2022.

Some of the completed homes.
All photos: Town of Smithers

The Town of Smithers celebrated the completion of a multi-family residential development in September 2022. This marks the first privately-initiated development in the community in nearly a decade, which was completed with financial help through Northern Development’s Northern Housing Incentive grant program.

“Thanks to the Northern Housing Incentive Project, the developer of 3030 Pacific Street was able to ensure the affordability of the project, with all 12 units being sold prior to the project’s completion in September 2022,” said Smithers Deputy Mayor Frank Wray. “This new housing is of critical importance, as securing adequate and affordable housing has become an increasingly challenging task in the area in recent years.”

The new homes were eagerly anticipated by area residents, with all 12 units receiving purchase offers well before the project was completed and all being sold by September. The townhouse complex increases housing diversity in the Bulkley Valley and help ease entry into the housing market for first time buyers.

“The development has provided a much-needed market housing option for local residents,” said Deputy Mayor Wray. “The Northern Housing Incentive Project has been a vital step in addressing the pressing need for affordable housing in Smithers and will have a positive impact on the lives of many local residents. The Town of Smithers thanks NDIT and looks forward to working with them on future projects.”

Declining housing affordability has been a long-time concern for the Town of Smithers and with a near-zero vacancy rate, this project helps provide a solution for 12 households. The need for affordable rental housing and affordable home ownership was identified in the Town of Smithers’ Housing Needs Report, which was completed in December 2020 using grant funding from Northern Development’s Housing Needs Assessment program.

Introduced by the Trust as a new funding program in 2019, the Northern Housing Incentive program has committed $620,000 to housing projects in its service region through seven projects. The combined value of all these housing projects is $14 million and they will result in 62 new residences being available in the north.

Northern Development’s Internship programs have two application processes: one for host governments and one for post-secondary graduates to apply to be an intern. For those interested in becoming an intern, Northern Development is hosting four virtual coffee chat sessions to share information about the program before the application deadline of February 12, 2023.

Alanna Le Cerf, internships program manager, will host the hour-long information sessions on Zoom. There will be ample opportunity for attendees to ask questions about the program, the application process, local and Indigenous government work in Northern B.C. and anything else that is on their mind.

The session dates are:

  • 12:30pm January 24, 2023
  • 6:00pm January 24, 2023
  • 12:30pm February 7, 2023
  • 6:00pm February 7, 2023

Zoom registration links can be found on the Upcoming Events page on Northern Development’s website.

The virtual coffee chat sessions are open to anyone who is eligible to apply to the internship program, including students from across Canada and international students with a valid work permit.

Did you know that Northern Development has a document detailing the application and decision process for our community development funding programs? The Community Development Application Process document is found on the Publications page of Northern Development’s website and is a handy resource for Indigenous governments, local governments and non-profit organizations who are considering applying to the Trust for funding.

View a full-size PDF here.

To support all applicants, Northern Development encourages organizations to reach out and ensure their project is a fit for the funding opportunities they provide. Initial contact can occur with a phone call or through email.

The document also shares information into the decision process, which involves staff conducting due diligence and forwarding the funding request to the appropriate regional advisory committee (RAC). If the RAC supports the project, the application progresses to Northern Development’s board of directors, who meet quarterly to review and approve applications. For select funding programs, the board has delegated approval authority to the Trust’s CEO.

View the Community Development Application Process document and other funding process information.