The District of Houston has seen great success in various levels of their organization from Northern Development’s local government internship program.
“The north truly is benefitting from Northern Development’s internship programs,” said Shane Brienen, mayor, District of Houston. “We’ve had some excellent graduates come through the local government internship program and it’s good to have young people stay and work in the north. Through the program they’re entering into professional jobs and are doing outstanding work. The District of Houston appreciates all the past and present interns that have worked with us and how they have made a tangible difference in our community.”
Holly Brown is one of the former Northern Development interns that is serving the community of Houston.
“After graduating from UNBC with a bachelor’s degree in Human Geography in 2019, I accepted a local government internship through Northern Development with the District of Houston, which allowed me to quickly flourish within the organization,” said Brown.
In September 2019, Brown accepted the role of executive assistant and grant writer, which she held for eight months before being promoted to deputy corporate officer/communications officer in June 2020. This summer, Brown once again moved up in the organization and is now the director of corporate services.
“The most rewarding aspect of a career in local government in Northern B.C. is the visibility of the positive impacts of your work,” explained Brown. “In smaller communities, it is likely that you know and live with the people who benefit from municipal projects and services. I think it can really enhance a person’s sense of fulfillment in their employment and belonging within the community when they feel connected to these outcomes that they contribute to.”
Earlier this summer, Brown was acting chief administrative officer (CAO) after Gerald Pinchbeck, former CAO, resigned after more than three years in the role. Pinchbeck was Brown’s mentor during her internship with the District of Houston and a former local government intern. Pinchbeck joined the District of Houston as the corporate officer after wrapping up his internship with the City of Quesnel in 2015.
Working with Pinchbeck and other members of the senior leadership team stands out as an exceptionally positive experience during Brown’s internship.
“The highlight of my internship was working with an incredible senior leadership team in Houston,” said Brown. “They helped me grow professionally from a recent post-secondary graduate to a working professional and develop a diverse skillset to adapt to changing priorities in local government and a variety of issues we face in our work.”
Brown recently hired Madelaine Swift as deputy corporate officer/grant writer with the District of Houston. Brown and Swift were both members of Northern Development’s 2019 intern cohort. With Swift joining the team, the District of Houston is currently employing two former interns and one current local government intern.
“I highly recommend a Northern Development internship to anyone who is looking to enter the field of public administration,” Brown said. “It is an excellent opportunity to gain direct mentorship from industry leaders and become familiar with the special communities in Northern B.C.”
In April 2020, Northern Development approved a $18,487 Small Business Recovery (SBR) Consulting Rebate to assist 6ix Sigma, a Prince George-based digital media company, with the costs of hiring a professional consultant to empower them to grow and thrive in the face of COVID-19. As a small business specializing in videography and photography for organizations, 6ix Sigma was especially vulnerable to economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic because many of their clients view marketing as a discretionary spend, making them less likely to invest in a new video or photography.
The consultant worked closely with 6ix Sigma to support them in three key areas: Coronavirus change management, strategy review and financial planning. Once the 12-month consulting project was complete, 6ix Sigma identified that one of the most valuable aspects of the process was financial planning. Having a professional consultant assess their financial process allowed them to focus on reducing costs, achieving billable targets and accurately projecting their future workload.
“We’re grateful to have received this rebate at a critical time for our business,” said Jason Hamborg, co-founder, 6ix Sigma. “We had been steadily growing since incorporating in 2015 and we knew we needed professional guidance to help us navigate the challenging economic climate. Working with the consultant made an immediate difference for our business and gave us the tools to continue succeeding and telling visual stories for customers in Northern B.C.”
The economic benefits of this project will allow 6ix Sigma to increase their profitability while also adopting cost saving techniques, leading to improved long-term sustainability. They also developed new capacity modeling which helps them better understand where to invest their resources while providing a better understanding of the types of projects that best suite their business. As a result, 6ix Sigma was able to grow their revenues and profitability in 2020 to the beginning of 2021.
Looking ahead, 6ix Sigma’s increased understanding of their operating expenses makes future expansion and ambitious projects more achievable.
Funding for the consulting project came from Northern Development’s SBR Consulting Rebate. As a business in the high-tech industry, 6ix Sigma was eligible for a rebate to reduce the barrier to accessing professional expertise through third-party consulting projects. All projects through the SBR Consulting Rebate must focus on ways to sustain businesses during the current economic downturn.
Earlier this year, Saulteau First Nations welcomed their second intern through the Trust’s First Nations Government Internship program. Gbenga Ayansola is one of four interns to be placed with a First Nations government in Northern B.C. through the Trust’s program in 2021.
“My experience with Saulteau First Nations has been such a pleasant one,” said Ayansola. “I was welcomed by staff members who genuinely love the land, share a common vision and are so passionate about what they are doing. The love could be felt and that created a very conducive environment for me as an in intern to give my best toward the progressive works going on in the Nation. I have had the opportunity to work with passionate people on amazing projects.”
Ayansola graduated in 2020 from the University of Northern British Columbia with a Master of Sciences in natural resource and environmental studies, forestry and wood engineering. He also has a Master of Sciences; Engineering – wood science technology from Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia.
Saulteau First Nations eagerly welcomed Ayansola to their team and carefully crafted a work plan prior to applying to Northern Development to host an intern. Ayansola is based in the finance and administration department, a place strategically chosen to provide the intern opportunities to learn about multiple aspects of First Nation’s government while remaining with one team in one location – providing stability and continuity during the 12-month placement.
“The Northern Development internship program is an exciting, unique, and mutually beneficial program,” said Sarah Canning, human resources advisor, Saulteau First Nations. “Not only does this program allow an intern to gain firsthand exposure to working within a First Nation Government, it allows the Nation to benefit from the intern’s vast amount of knowledge and experience in their field of studies. Saulteau First Nations has participated in the program twice now and highly encourage other Nations to utilize this program. We enjoy how grateful and eager the interns are to expand their horizons and feel that First Nations have a special ability to open doors of opportunity for the interns, thus benefiting them as they progress in their careers.”
Sarah Canning, Ayansola’s mentor, was also a mentor to Jason Ermineskin, an intern in 2019. Ermineskin was Saulteau First Nations’ first intern, and both the host government and intern found the experience to be successful. Ermineskin is now permanently employed by ASKI Reclamation LP, one of Saulteau First Nations’ companies, as a project administrator.
Funding for Ayansola’s internship position is through the Northern Development’s First Nations Government Internship program. This program allows rural, Indigenous communities to recruit and retain talented professionals, increasing capacity and contributing to succession planning. Saulteau First Nations receives $55,000 from the Trust to assist with the costs of hosting an intern. Of this, $45,000 is for the intern’s salary and $10,000 is for the intern’s housing allowance.
Since 2014, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) has been receiving funding from Northern Development’s Grant Writing Support program for a part-time grant writing position with the Bridge River Valley Community Association (BRVCA) to benefit SLRD Areas A and B. In six years, more than $1 million in grant funding has been awarded because of the grant writer’s work, benefitting numerous community organizations and local governments.
“One of the best parts of my position is knowing that I’m helping communities invest in and complete crucial projects that improve quality of life by accessing external funds that reduce the financial impact on local taxpayers,” said Laurie Reimer, grant writer, BRVCA. “Grant writing is a very rewarding experience. I’m grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with so many amazing communities, groups and committees as they work to achieve goals that enhance community life.”
Reimer has been the grant writer for BRVCA since 2016 and prior to joining the community association she worked as a grant writer in Burns Lake, where her position was also partially funded by the Trust’s Grant Writing Support program.
“One highlight is when my grant applications for the East Lillooet Internment Memorial Garden project were successful, resulting in the entire project being funded through grants and in-kind contributions,” shared Reimer. “Located along Highway 12 near the junction to Lillooet, this project is a legacy that provides a heritage and historical connection, as well as encouraging learning, recreation and relaxation and is accessible to residents, visitors and tourists.”
The positive influence of having a dedicated and experienced grant writer is evident within the area, with many community priority projects being completed with the assistance of outside funding. This leads to quality facilities and services without burdening the small tax base.
“Laurie truly understands how to develop a successful funding proposal using excellent research and writing skills,” said Pat Dahle, president, BRVCA. “From a successful grant application for $148,762 to upgrade the HVAC Control System at the Lillooet REC Centre in 2020 to numerous successful Canada Summer Jobs grant applications, the impacts of her hard work are far reaching. The Canada Summer Jobs grant directly benefits youth in our area which has a ripple effect in the community.”
Funding for Laurie’s position, and 53 other grant writing positions throughout the north, comes from Northern Development’s Grant Writing Support program. Up to $8,000 to a maximum of 76 percent of eligible grant writer wages is available through the program annually. Grant writers support communities by preparing funding applications to agencies, foundations and government programs to support economic development projects for their communities.
Since 2008, Northern Development has offered the Economic Development Capacity Building program to provide a financial incentive for local governments to hire and maintain an economic development officer or to pursue economic development opportunities. Since the funding program’s inception, the District of Kitimat has successfully applied to the program each year to support economic development in their community.
“Receiving the Economic Development Capacity Building Grant each year from Northern Development helps the District maintain highly skilled economic development staff,” said Mayor Phil Germuth, District of Kitimat. “2020 was an unusual year with the challenges of COVID-19 and opportunities generated by the LNG pipeline development. Having a strong and capable economic development team strategically guide our businesses and community during this period of growth will benefit Kitimat for years to come.”
In 2020, the District of Kitimat received $50,000, the maximum grant amount, through the Economic Development Capacity Building program. This grant was used for partial wages for the director of economic development. Their workload included managing the economic and social impacts of COVID-19, managing and guiding the economic impacts of LNG Canada’s construction, completing a Kitimat Community branding and marketing program, continuing the northwest resident attraction campaign and continuing to promote the Love Kitimat program.
Northern Development has invested $22.9 million for 598 projects through the Economic Development Capacity Building Program, $2.15 million of which was approved in 2020. Local governments in the Trust’s service region are eligible to apply for this grant.
On August 18, 2021, Joel McKay, CEO, Northern Development, was honoured by Business in Vancouver (BIV) as one of B.C.’s most influential business leaders in Economic Development.
BIV published its inaugural BC500 website and magazine after months of thorough research by its editorial team and advisors to determine B.C.’s most prominent drivers of the province’s economic success and prosperity.
The list includes 500 leaders spread across 14 sections which are further broken down into subsections. McKay was included alongside 11 other inspirational leaders in Economic Development – Public Sector and Economy. Two other trust CEOs, Laurel Douglas, Economic Trust of the Southern Interior, and Line Robert, Island Coastal Economic Trust, were also recognized in this category.
View McKay’s BIV leadership profile here: https://bc500.biv.com/categories/economic-development/
To provide a refresh to the existing Love Northern BC signage, Northern Development distributed aluminum signs that are four feet tall and eight feet wide to participating communities. The new design prominently displays each community’s shop local webpage, as well as a map of our service region. These new signs will remind locals and tourists alike to check out the local, independent businesses that make our communities great!
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Working with communities, First Nations, local government and businesses to build a stronger North by investing in economic development in central and northern British Columbia, Canada.
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Love Northern BC is a movement connecting people with the independent locally-owned businesses that are the heart and soul of their communities.