April 2022 - Newsletter

In this issue

Northern Development at a glance


of Trust funds invested in projects since 2005


projects approved since 2005

Sample produced with fiber burned in the 2019 Shovel Lake fire.
All photos: Deadwood Innovations

In 2020, Deadwood Innovations Ltd. contacted Northern Development about their work in developing a pilot processing plant on the former Tl’oh Forest Products site, located on traditional territory and owned by Nak’azdli Whut’en. This pilot project will use dead, dried or burned trees to create value-added engineered products. The project strongly aligns with the Trust’s Northern Industries Innovation Fund and in July, Deadwood Innovations was approved for a $50,000 rebate, the maximum amount available through the funding program.

“Deadwood Innovations has partnered with Nak’azdli Development Corporation to develop and commercialize a novel wood modification process that transforms low quality and/or underutilized fibre into engineered wood products,” said Owen Miller, president and project manager, Deadwood Innovations. “Through local innovation and Indigenous co-ownership, we are leading the journey into Forestry 2.0.”

Deadwood Innovations has developed a patent-pending process that crushes and presses pieces of dried conifers in a style that maintains fibre orientation and length as close to how it naturally occurs as mechanically possible. This intentional fibre arrangement retains the best qualities of natural wood and engineered wood products. The result is a high-value beetle kill engineered wood product that is free of rot, knots, checks and voids.

Aspen sample with an extruded edge, demonstrating the opportunity to produce insulated building panels.

“Our technology provides a value-add, carbon-storing alternative for northern hardwoods and degraded softwoods,” explained Miller. “The combination of our mechanical and lignin chemistry processes modifies the natural cellulose structure and imparts desirable properties that nature didn’t. The fibre is upgraded without the use of conventional petrochemical derived adhesives and associated emissions.”

This process uses low energy and is relatively low cost. Dead and dry trees are harvested to be processed, which captures carbon instead of releasing it through burning or having the fibre transformed into hog fuel through shredding, or being used for pulping and pulverizing (pellets). Removing the dry and dead trees also reduces the likelihood of large-scale, uncontrolled wildfires by removing fuel.

“The financial support we received from Northern Development, Natural Resources Canada and the Province of BC through the Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program provided valuable support as we engineered, procured, constructed, and currently operate the pilot plant in the former Tl’oh Forest Products building,” said Miller.

By establishing the pilot plant on Nak’azdli Whut’en’s traditional territory, local forestry-related work will once again be available to community members. Between 1995 and 2014, Nak’azdli operated Tl’oh Forest Products, a fingerjoint manufacturing facility that was jointly owned with Sinclar Group.

The Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic had a devastatingly negative impact on Tl’oh’s production and profitability, which resulted in the mill being permanently curtailed in 2014. When Tl’oh closed, 60 employees, 85 per cent of which were Nak’azdli, were laid off. Since then, they have needed to seek forestry-related work elsewhere off-reserve. It is estimated that this pilot project will provide 25 permanent full-time jobs and 30 part-time or seasonal jobs.

“Through collaborative discussion and project review we are optimistic that this pilot has great potential,” wrote Chief Alec McKinnon, Nak’azdli Whut’en, in a letter of support. “The reactivation of this facility will further support our community with opportunity for Nak’azdli Whut’en employment both on site, as well as upstream harvesting activity, which may include utilization of entities within Nak’azdli Development Corporation.”

Northern Development’s financial support of Deadwood Innovations came from the Northern Industries Innovation Fund. The program supports innovative projects that contribute to economic diversification to mitigate the economic impact of the pine beetle epidemic.

Northern Development’s 2021 Annual Report has been published online. Recently approved by the Trust’s board of directors, the report reviews project funding approvals that were made during the year and provides financial and program statistics.

“Despite the challenges and uncertainty of 2021, Northern Development remained a steady presence in Northern B.C.,” said Margo Wagner, chair, Northern Development. “Nearly 500 projects were approved in 2021, with a total project value of $349 million. Continued support for economic development in the north is vital to the well-being of our communities and region as a whole.”

This is the first report since the September 2020 introduction of six new community development programs. The new funding programs, developed after extensive consultation, were well accessed and allowed the Trust to partner with communities in a way that more closely aligns with their economic development priorities. Over $7.8 million was committed to 83 community development projects through these six new programs in 2021.

Business development programs continued to provide support as small and medium-sized businesses continued to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, severe weather events, supply chain disruptions, labour shortages and other challenges. These rebate programs often de-risk the cost of businesses investing in themselves to reposition or take advantage of a new opportunity, leading to stronger, more resilient businesses. Since 2005, the Trust has invested $18 million into business development.

The Annual Report also reveals significant growth in the partner programs – funding that Northern Development administers for other organizations. In 2021, more than $94 million was approved through four partner programs. The bulk of this was through the provincially funded Connecting British Columbia program, with $88.8 million being committed to 64 projects that will help deliver high-speed internet connectivity to rural and remote areas of B.C. The three other partner programs are the Northern Healthy Communities Fund, BC Hydro Peace Agricultural Compensation Fund and BC Hydro GO Fund.

The full report can be read on Northern Development’s website here.

Back L-R:  Gerald Pinchbeck, David Schroeter, Michael Dewar, Minister Cullen, Daniel Fish.
Front L-R: Robyn Carle, Lina Gasser.
Photo: Lina Gasser

On April 22 and 23, Nathan Cullen, Minister of Municipal Affairs and MLA for Stikine, met with members of the NW Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA). Present at the meeting were six former Northern Development interns, who were attending due to their current roles in local government. The former interns took advantage of the spontaneous mini reunion and took a photo together with Minister Cullen.

Below are details about each person’s Northern Development internship and their current position.

NameInternship programInternship yearInternship hostCurrent position
Robyn CarleEconomic Development2011Northern DevelopmentCAO, Village of Hazelton
Michael DewarLocal Government2015City of Prince RupertCAO, District of Houston
Daniel FishEconomic Development2012Northern DevelopmentCAO, North Coast Regional District
Lina GasserLocal Government2015District of Fort St. JamesCAO, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine
Gerald PinchbeckLocal Government2014City of QuesnelCAO, District of Vanderhoof
David SchroeterLocal Government2018District of Fort St. JamesCAO, Fort St. James

“Seeing so many intern alumni representing their communities during this meeting with Minister Cullen was an unexpected and joyful surprise,” said Alanna Le Cerf, internships program manager, Northern Development. “Since the beginning, the internship programs have been developed to provide a solid foundation for recent post-secondary graduates who are looking to begin a fulfilling career in local government. This picture shows the long-term positive impacts the programs are having in the north and beyond.”

The Trust offers two internships: local government and First Nations government. At this time, there are three placements remaining for 2022, one in each District of Fort St. James, District of Mackenzie and Peace River Regional District. For information about the internship programs visit northerndevelopment.bc.ca/internships.

Love Northern BC’s (LNBC) Easter Egg-Stravaganza returned for the second year between April 14 to 21. The digital contest offered participants the opportunity to win one of three $100 Support Local BC gift certificates – valid for any of the 1,800 businesses on Support Local BC’s website.

Through organic and paid social media advertising, participants were encouraged to visit LNBC’s website and add three businesses to a “Favourites List” in their account. This activity encouraged users to explore LNBC’s website and become familiar with one of its digital tools.

LNBC communities, including Love Taylor and Love Tumbler Ridge, also shared the contest on their Facebook pages to extend the reach of the contest.

Winners were randomly selected on April 22, with prize recipients living in Tumbler Ridge, Williams Lake and Prince George.

Easter eggs were placed on community maps.

LNBC is Northern Development’s shop local program which connects people with independent locally-owned businesses throughout the region. The program is designed to deliver unique online marketing campaigns in communities throughout the region that celebrate independent locally-owned businesses with an aim to strengthen their competitiveness and keep more dollars in the local community. The program is delivered in partnership and collaboration with communities throughout the Trust’s service area.

Photo: Houston Today

On Saturday, April 23 the Houston Housing Society celebrated the grand opening of their new six-plex seniors’ housing facility. These new, accessible units will support the community’s seniors who want to downsize and age in place while increasing Houston’s housing stock.

“The demand for affordable senior’s housing has never been greater in Houston as we have over 90 people on the waiting list for our housing complex,” said Shannon Clarke, treasurer, Houston Retirement Housing Society. “The new six-plex will help alleviate some of this demand, and we appreciate the funding from Northern Development Initiative Trust that made this project feasible.”

The District of Houston received a $60,000 Northern Housing Incentive grant from Northern Development to support the construction of four two-bedroom units and two one-bedroom units.

Photo: Houston Today

On April 6, Northern Development released the 2021 State of the North Economic Report which delves into central and northern B.C.’s economy in year two of the pandemic and how key industries fared.

“This year’s State of the North contains good news, bad news and a lot of uncertainty,” said CEO of Northern Development, Joel McKay. “Our region is faced with labour shortages, slow population growth and a myriad of other risks from floods, fires and a war in Eastern Europe. However, major project constructions along with strong commodity prices will likely continue to support various industry sectors for the next few years.”

The bulk of the report is comprised of regional analysis for Northern B.C. as a whole and four subregions, the Northwest, Northeast, North Central and Cariboo-Chilcotin/Lillooet. Data regarding population, employment and the cost of living featured in each subregion.

The report provides updates on five industries: forestry, energy, tourism, agriculture and mining/oil and gas. These updates include number of facilities, sector employment and other measurables.

The State of the North Economic Report is independently researched by MNP.

Read the full report here.