December 2019 - Newsletter

In this issue

Northern Development at a glance


number of all approved projects since 2005

$235.3 million

in funding approved since 2005


projects approved in communities with less than 5,000 people

$23.0 million

disbursed in 2019


projects approved in 2019

$1.9 million

invested in Love Northern BC program

Winter Solstice signals the time when daylight hours start increasing and the days seem to be getting longer. In the dark days of fall and winter, we rely on lighting to make businesses more welcoming and to extend the hours we can spend outside. Read on to learn how Northern Development has supported businesses and organizations to improve their lighting, including Reid Street Pharmacy in Quesnel and Caledonia Nordic Ski Club in Prince George. On the supply-side of lighting, Westcana Electric has even received funding through the Trust’s business development programs to improve operational efficiency.

This newsletter also focuses on the importance of shopping local. Learn about Love Haida Gwaii through a Q&A with Alanah, community champion for Love Haida Gwaii and the economic development manager at Misty Isles Economic Development Society. Learn more about Love Northern BC, the largest shop-local program in Canada, and about B.C. Buy Local Week, organized by LOCO BC.

Business Façade Improvement program lights up Northern B.C. businesses

In the dark of winter, improvements to business exteriors done during the light of summer create an inviting and safe first impression, reflecting the warmth of the people and business inside. Northern Development’s Business Façade Improvement program encourages independent businesses to invest in their building’s exterior and and assists with the costs incurred during an exterior renovation.

In Quesnel, Reid Street Pharmacy took advantage of the Business Façade Improvement program and created a more accessible rear entrance for clients and patients while also updating the aesthetics of the back wall by commissioning a mural and adding lighting.

Before and after pictures of Reid Street Pharmacy in Quesnel.

“The murals have greatly enhanced the appearance of the buildings and have provided interesting and inviting entrances,” said I. Keith Corbett in a testimonial after the project’s completion. “The lighting for the murals has had the double effect of illuminating the artwork and improving the safety and ambience of the alley and rear entrances. We have received many positive comments and are very satisfied with the project.

Local governments in the Trust’s service region can apply for up to $20,000 through the Business Façade Improvement program. The local government then receives, reviews and approves applications from businesses in their community. This program encourages private sector investment in local business improvement and subsequently enhances the economic viability and vibrancy of Northern B.C.

Since launching the funding program to an enthusiastic response, Northern Development has committed $2,250,980 to local governments through the Business Façade Improvement program, with many communities repeatedly applying and being approved for funding to continue enhancing their businesses and creating an attractive destination for locals and visitors.

Photo: Entering the stadium area at Caledonia Nordic Ski Centre

$88,000 in lighting upgrades to Nordic trails in Prince George

Winter Solstice has come and gone and daylight hours are lengthening as shadows shorten. For those looking for outdoor recreation opportunities, facilities with lighting beckon users to enjoy a pre- or post-work jaunt. For Nordic ski centres, enhanced lighting increases membership, provides additional training opportunities for competitors and decreases costs.

When Caledonia Nordic Ski Club applied to Northern Development’s Community Halls and Recreation Facilities funding program in 2016 to improve five kilometres of Nordic ski trails that were build for the 2015 Canada Winter Games, it was easy for the Trust to see the value in this investment.

Increasing the distance of trails with LED lighting and retrofitting existing metal halide lights with LED bulbs continues to benefit the ski club, the community and competitors. During the 2018/19 ski season Caledonia Nordic saw an increase of 262 memberships, which means more people from the community are using the facility to stay active during the winter months.

In Prince George, the improvements to Caledonia Nordic Ski Club are also creating positive economic impacts generated through sporting events. In 2019, Caledonia Nordic Ski Club welcomed approximately 140 of the world’s best para Nordic athletes from 21 countries for the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships. This 10-day competition was predicted to generate more than $5.3 million in economic benefit for Prince George and a total of $6.3 million for the province.

The improvements being made to the ski facility, including lighting, contribute to the organization being recognized as a quality destination for international events. Athletes competing in the Biathlon BC Cup and the World Para Nordic Skiing Championship benefited as competitors were able to have lit range and trails earlier in the day which provided the ability to rest in the evenings. The investments being made into the ski area are being noticed and complimented by visiting skiers and competition officials.

To date, Northern Development has committed more than $2.4 million to 25 unique ski facilities throughout its service region, including seven lighting upgrades. Funding for these projects come from the Trust’s Community Halls and Recreation Facilities and Economic Diversification Infrastructure programs.

Snowmaking in front of the lodge. Photo credit: Mike Palangio (Caledonia Nordic Ski Club)

All Photo Credit: Westcana Electric

Westcana Electric successfully plugs in to Sage 100

Since 1991, Westcana Electric has been providing quality electrical expertise to people throughout British Columbia. In 2018 they realized an opportunity to increase operational efficiency and cost savings by implementing a new accounting system.

In March 2019, Westcana successfully applied to Northern Development’s Competitiveness Consulting Rebate program for a $17,000 rebate to help with the costs of hiring an external consultant to ensure a smooth transition from their previous accounting system to a new model. This shift was completed in a timely manner and on June 1, 2019 the new software was fully adopted by the company.

“We had a great experience with our consultant,” said Scott Sherba, owner of Westcana Electric. “She was very knowledgeable in Sage 100 and did a great job in answering all our questions. She provided us with all the resources we need to operate efficiently. She was a big help in the data transfer from our old program to our new program as there was a significant amount of financial information to transfer over.”

The consultant worked with Westcana staff over a period of 90 days. During this time, the consultant trained all relevant staff on each module and provided procedural documents to ensure knowledge learned is maintained and can be easily shared with new staff. Westcana employees find these documents exceptionally helpful and rarely have questions that cannot be answered by the resources.

“Already, we’ve seen many benefits from this project,” Sherba continued. “We’re saving costs on paper, approvals are done faster and our accounts payable department can take on additional tasks because they’re saving so much time. We’ve also reduced our risk of missed billings because all work orders and projects can be easily and accurately tracked in the new system.”

Westcana continues to grow and having an advanced accounting system supports this progress. Since the project was completed in June, the company has welcomed three new people, a project manager, estimator and administrator, to their team.

“Northern Development is so pleased that its investment into Westcana Electric through the Competitiveness Consulting Rebate program enabled the company to quickly experience positive change,” said Felicia Magee, director of business development with the Trust. “By advancing their accounting software, Westcana was able to create and fill three positions. Now, Westcana is a stronger, more resilient business and their future is bright!”

Northern Development’s Competitiveness Consulting Rebate program provides up to $30,000 to eligible businesses for the costs of hiring an external consultant for projects that increase productivity, increase revenues, create jobs or increase profitability. Common projects in this program include accounting system upgrades, business plan development and updated health and safety plans.

Alanah with a Love Haida Gwaii banner.

Alanah Mountifield is the community champion for Love Haida Gwaii and the economic development manager with Misty Isles Economic Development Society. Through these roles, Alanah sees how supporting locally owned businesses benefits the entire community. In mid-December we took some time to learn more about Alanah’s experiences being the Love Haida Gwaii community champion.

Q: First, can you describe what you do as community champion for Love Haida Gwaii?
In a nutshell, I provide a service to our business community. As Love Haida Gwaii community champion I am the local point of contact for new and existing members of the program. I promote the program with local businesses (although that’s easy as the program sells itself) and I promote local business through the program. I offer in person assistance with profiles, follow up and trouble-shooting and I provide free ongoing marketing for member businesses.

Q: How long have you been involved with Love Haida Gwaii? What changes have you observed over that time?
I joined the Misty Isles Economic Development Society and took on the Love Haida Gwaii portfolio in the fall of 2017. The program was already very well used on Haida Gwaii when I took on the champion role and it has continued to grow steadily with approximately 10 new businesses in each of the following years.

Q: There are more than 170 unique Love Haida Gwaii businesses spread from Old Masset in the north to Sandspit, 125 kilometers to the south. This is an incredible amount of participation From Haida Gwaii businesses! Why do you think Love Haida Gwaii grew to be this big?
The success of the Love Haida Gwaii Program can be attributed to two important factors in my opinion. The first factor is that there was and is a need for this program here. It’s a way for Haida Gwaii business to be on the digital map and to have a presence on the World Wide Web. The value of the program was obvious to small business people on the islands; it’s a place to show the world all the great things we have and do here in Haida Gwaii. The second important factor of the early success of Love Haida Gwaii was the passion of my predecessors.  Mary Lou Schroeder and Kathy James were instrumental in community outreach to spread the word about this program throughout Haida Gwaii. The lore is that these two passionate, community minded women went door-to-door to offer this program to our local businesses in all of the island communities.

Q: What kind of feedback have you received about visitors using Love Haida Gwaii to discover businesses they may not have visited otherwise?
Anecdotally, I’ve heard comments from visitors that the Love Haida Gwaii website was informative and helpful.  I’ve also heard comments from visitors and local users like: “I didn’t know that business existed here”, and my favorite, “What a wonderful, heartwarming write-up”. The Love Haida Gwaii site is very well used as indicated by Google Analytics as well as a local exit survey project underway here on Haida Gwaii throughout 2019. Early data from the survey project show that Love Haida Gwaii is in the top three resources regularly used by visitors – that’s pretty good exposure for local business.  

Q: What do you consider to be Love Haida Gwaii’s most valuable feature?
The most valuable feature of the Love Haida Gwaii program is its fee structure.  It makes a presence on the web attainable for everyone.  Many small business owners don’t have the time or resources to figure out how to create a stand-alone website for their business and for those folks, this program is invaluable. The other value that Love Haida Gwaii offers almost accidentally is community. The program offers many perks and benefits to its members but it also provides avenues for businesses to network and communicate with one-another.

Q: Why is it important for people (locals and visitors) on Haida Gwaii to support local businesses?
Local businesses are incredibly important to their home communities.  A small business usually arises out of a need for access to a product or service or from the passion of a person with a vision.  In any case, local businesses constantly give back to their communities by providing wares, offering employment, making donations to local causes and by shopping in and supporting other local businesses in their communities.  If there was a question about the intangible value a local business brings to a community, simply imagine the community without the businesses in it; the picture then becomes quite clear.  Businesses that have been operating for many years become fixtures in Haida Gwaii communities as do the owners and staff and very often know their clientele personally. My experience has been that local businesses often go above and beyond to help me out.

Love Northern BC is the largest shop-local program in Canada and is administered by Northern Development. Since 2013, Love Northern BC has been connecting people with locally-owned businesses in the Trust’s service region – stretching more than 1,300 highway kilometres from Logan Lake to Fort Nelson and crossing from Haida Gwaii in the west to Valemount in the east.

Since 2013, Northern Development has been collaborating with communities throughout Northern B.C. to encourage residents and visitors to shop at local businesses and keep their money in the community. Love Northern BC, formerly known as Small Town Love, began in Quesnel as the brainchild of a local resident and entrepreneur that saw the value in supporting small businesses. In 2013, six additional communities participated in a pilot project to test the concept in other small communities. The Districts of Logan Lake, Fort St. James, 100 Mile House and Vanderhoof and the Villages of Valemount and Burns Lake participated in the pilot project and as a result more than 200 locally owned businesses received professional photography and business descriptions on unique websites. Read more about the pilot project in this November 2013 press release.

Following the 2013 feasibility testing in the six communities, other communities have seen the value in this program and have eagerly joined. In 2014, 15 communities were under the Love Northern BC umbrella, each with their own online identity and website for business profiles. By 2016, this number jumped to 30 anchor communities, representing more than 75 communities. Some anchor communities represent smaller, outlying communities in addition to their own community. Love Haida Gwaii is a good example of this. Alanah, the community champion for Love Haida Gwaii, is based in Queen Charlotte. However, businesses from across the island, including Tow Hill, Sandspit, Tlell, Port Clements and Masset are all represented through Love Haida Gwaii.

Through Love Northern BC, more than 1,500 businesses have a high-quality online presence. Participating businesses pay a one-time $100 fee and they receive a professional photoshoot of their business, a professionally written description of their business and background and a listing on Businesses are categorized into different sectors, helping potential customers learn about them. Currently, food production and service is the top category, with 469 businesses represented. Next is shopping, with 310 businesses listed. Rounding out the top three is accommodations and tours, with 268 businesses.

B.C. Buy Local Week showcases the importance of buying B.C. products and services

As holiday shopping kicked into high gear, LOCO BC once again celebrated B.C. Buy Local Week from December 2-8. This annual celebration recognizes the unique value that B.C. businesses make to the provincial economy. Northern Development was pleased to see local governments and Love Northern BC businesses from around the region sharing the importance of supporting local businesses and promoting Love Northern BC.

B.C. Buy Local Week shared seven ways for seven days that people can buy local, including shopping in store, buying local online, buying local made and eating and drinking local. These methods of supporting local are nicely complemented by Love Northern BC, Northern Development’s shop local program.

LOCO BC shared some insightful data behind the importance of supporting B.C. businesses, including:

  • 2 out of every 3 dollars spent online in Canada goes to a U.S. multinational;
  • C. has 1,800 food/beverage and 600 apparel companies;
  • Manufacturing is B.C.’s seventh largest employer;
  • Local brewers provide one out of every 100 jobs in Canada and contributes $6 billion in tax revenue;
  • 40 per cent of B.C. farms are small. 65 cents of every $1 spent at local restaurants stays in the community compared to 30 cents for chains.

Learn more from LOCO BC.