Projects across the Trust’s service region were still completed and safely celebrated, even with the additional challenges incurred by the pandemic. The commitment demonstrated by community members to persevere through these trying times is inspiring and their work contributes to making the north a better place to live, work and visit.
Bear Mountain Nordic Ski Association In January 2020, Bear Mountain Nordic Ski Association celebrated the grand opening of their new terrain park. Northern Development invested $47,568 through the former Community Halls and Recreation Facilities program to develop a multi-sloped terrain area for people learning to cross country ski, for coaches teaching new techniques and for those seeking a warmup before hitting the trails. Since Northern Development announced six new funding programs as part of Trust 2020, this project would now be eligible through the new Recreation Infrastructure program.
Stellat’en First Nation In August, Stellat’en First Nation held a physically distanced opening celebration recognizing the completion of three trails along the Stellako River. Four community members were hired and trained to work on the trails, including brothers Rob and Colin (pictured above). Rob was the head trail builder. The network includes bridges and seating areas along the river to provide a place to rest and enjoy nature. Stellat’en First Nation received a $30,000 grant through the former Community Halls and Recreation Facilities program to help with the costs of developing the trails.
Williams Lake First Nation In June, Northern Development Chair Margo Wagner attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Williams Lake First Nation’s Cannabis Cultivation Facility. Northern Development has committed $250,000 towards this $1.1 million project through the former Economic Diversification Infrastructure funding program. The project would now be eligible for a grant through the new Economic Infrastructure program. The cultivation facility will create new jobs and allow Williams Lake First Nation to diversify away from some of the traditional industries that have been negatively impacted by recent wildfires in the area.
Vanderhoof Menshed Society On October 7, the Vanderhoof Menshed Society celebrated the purchase of the building they had formerly been leasing and Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen, chair of Northern Development’s Prince George Regional Advisory Committee, stopped by to commemorate the event. The Menshed is a concept that originated in Australia and has spread around the world to benefit the physical and mental health of older men by providing socialization and work opportunities. The Vanderhoof Menshed earns revenue through a variety of ways, including woodworking, construction of picnic tables, boat docks, greenhouses and furniture, snow removal and much more. Northern Development invested $216,611 into this project which will help retain the senior population in the area and reduce waste through recycling, repair and repurposing.
On October 31 the first intake for Northern Development’s six new community development funding programs closed. The Trust’s service region provided a hearty response to the new funding programs and each program received applications. Now, Northern Development staff are reviewing all the applications and preparing due diligence reports for each of the Regional Advisory Committees.
In total, 39 funding applications for funding through the community development programs were submitted. The previous year, 29 applications were submitted to the community development programs. The number of applications to each of the funding programs in Fall 2020 are:
“This strong response to our first application intake for the new community development funding programs demonstrates the regional need for these funding opportunities,” said Derek Baker, director of economic development, Northern Development. “Before launching the programs in September 2020, we did extensive community engagement and research to understand what our service region needed to build a stronger north. We look forward to reviewing the applications and learning how organizations hope to leverage our funds to complete their projects.”
All of the applications received in the fall 2020 intake will be presented to the four Regional Advisory Committees during their regular meetings in January.
Learn more about the six new community development funding programs that were launched as part of Trust 2020 in September here.
To respond to the drastically changing needs of the region during 2020, Northern Development introduced or adjusted funding programs and developed a new partnership with Support Local BC to support businesses during the evolving challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 8, the Trust’s business development team unveiled the new Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate (SBR) – an adjustment to the Forestry Affected Business Consulting Rebate that had been introduced the previous year. SBR is designed to support small and medium sized businesses that are impacted by the economic downturn. Through the program, businesses in a broad range of industries can apply for rebates of up to 85 per cent, to a maximum of $25,000, of an eligible project’s budget. One focus of the funding program is supporting businesses as they transition to e-commerce platforms or other modes of operation during social and physical distancing restrictions. SBR also supports operational and systems improvements and business repositioning for a long-term return to profitability.
Less than three weeks later, Northern Development celebrated its partnership with Support Local BC to promote the online purchase of gift cards from Love Northern BC businesses. This partnership means that businesses can join the online platform at no cost, and will receive the full value of the gift cards purchased – no processing fees.
“Success can be measured in many ways but being able to endure the current state of the COVID-19 world has to be considered a success in itself,” said Rob Gruber, owner, Good Times Games in Prince Rupert. “Support Local BC has been vital for us. Customers purchasing gift certificates for future use not only shows their trust in our commitment to make it through this, but their support also acts as encouragement for all of us at Good Times, telling us we are appreciated, special and a vital component to the business community here.”
On May 8, Northern Development announced that it had developed a new program to provide business support services for the region. The Regional Business Liaison (RBL) funding program provides support to Community Futures Development Corporations, Chambers of Commerce, local governments and community economic development entities for hiring local talent to provide support for small and medium businesses in the region. The Trust funds 100 per cent of eligible expenses up to $75,000. On June 18, funding was approved for 11 RBL positions – in total, eight Community Futures, two Chambers of Commerce and one regional district received funding to hire an RBL to serve their region.
“NDIT’s funding for the RBL position is a powerful springboard for facilitating dialogues that will enhance communication, while identifying service gaps and how to fill them,” said Susan Stearns, general manager, Community Futures Fraser Fort George. “It will allow businesses to access resources to redesign their businesses and will be a primary conduit for strengthening and diversifying economic recovery across the North.”
In the fall, the Connecting British Columbia program opened a short-term intake for funding applications that can be implemented immediately and completed prior to October 31, 2021. Northern Development administers the Connecting British Columbia program on behalf of the Province of British Columbia. This Economic Recovery Intake focuses on projects that expand connectivity in rural and Indigenous communities and along rural highway segments. This program is part of B.C.’s Economic Recovery Plan.
In 2021, the Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate program will continue, as will Northern Development’s partnership with Support Local BC. The Regional Business Liaison program will continue to support the North as the liaisons continue their year-long work in the region. The Economic Recovery Intake, offered through the Connecting British Columbia program, aims to have all funds allocated by March 31, 2021 and for projects to be completed by October 31, 2021.
In spring 2020, Mai Thai Restaurant owners were acutely feeling the negative impacts of COVID-19 on their food service operations. They quickly realized their business operations would have to pivot if they hoped to be able to operate as health restrictions eased around the virus. On June 16, they applied to Northern Development’s Small Business Recovery (SBR) Consulting Rebate program to receive financial help to assist with the pivot. Their determination to have a restaurant to return to when restaurants were able to open again, was evident from the beginning.
“We had to stay in business,” said Dale McDermid, secretary, Mai Thai Restaurant. “We were committed to changing along with these unexpected times and to continue serving the evolving downtown Prince George area and residents. Our old ways of operating were no longer relevant and we needed to find a way to be more involved with our customers. We knew that if we could be more active on digital and social media that we would be more prosperous.”
Mai Thai Restaurant contracted a local agency to vastly improve their online presence. The four-month project resulted in the creation of a brand-new website with online ordering capabilities, the development of a digital and social media marketing strategy, brand guidelines, and visual assets, as well as training for staff to integrate the new tools into daily operations. Combined, these tools help Mai Thai Restaurant regularly communicate with their customers while supporting their desired transition from dine-in service to takeout and delivery.
“You saved our restaurant,” McDermid said upon the completion of the project. “We have increased our sales and we have just begun. Your backing and the consultant ensured we would ride out this COVID-19 slow down. We will only get better. Thank you. As we get better and COVID eases, we will keep updating our menu and diversifying it. For example, we will have weekly street food specials. This was not possible before because we could not talk directly to our customers.”
As business continues to increase after the completion of the project, Mai Thai Restaurant anticipates adding more people to their staff. Positions they expect to create are for cooks and delivery drivers.
In April 2020, Northern Development announced SBR to assist businesses in a wide variety of industries who were impacted by the economic downturn. The new rebate program replaced the previous Forestry Affected Business Consulting Rebate that had been launched in 2019 to help businesses who were impacted by the downturn in the forestry industry. In 2020, all the funds available through SBR were committed to projects. The program will begin accepting applications again on January 1, 2021.
For the first time, Love Northern BC held a region-wide Plaid Friday contest to provide shoppers with an additional incentive to support their local businesses on November 27. Entering the contest was intentionally simple and only required people to take a picture of themselves supporting local and submit the image to Love Northern BC on the specified day.
The contest was well-received and Love Northern BC received festive Plaid Friday selfies from Valemount, to the Village of Queen Charlotte and many communities in between. There were 20 plaid prize packages available, consisting of Love Northern BC-branded mittens, toque and aluminum camp mug.
During 2020, the Trust welcomed new professionals to the team to better serve Northern B.C. residents, communities and businesses. Northern Development also said goodbye to Brenda Gendron, who had filled the position of chief financial officer since 2012. The Trust is grateful for Gendron’s leadership during her time at the Trust, especially her work developing and leading the partner programs.
In January, Ana Peasgood joined Northern Development as business development coordinator. Peasgood brings more than two decades of experience supporting Northern B.C. businesses through her professional and volunteer roles in the natural resource, public service and non-profit sectors prior to joining the Trust team. Peasgood fills the vacancy that was created when Felicia Magee, former business development coordinator, was promoted to the director of business development.
January also saw Christine Gagne transition to the role of partner programs manager. She is a familiar face as she previously worked with the Trust as corporate services coordinator. As partner programs manager, Gagne is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of Northern Development’s partner programs, including BC Hydro GO Fund, BC Hydro Peace Agricultural Compensation Fund and Connecting BC.
In October, Alanna Le Cerf joined the Trust as internship programs manager. Alanna was raised in Mackenzie and holds a Certificate in International Development from the University of British Columbia. Le Cerf is responsible for all aspects of the Local Government Internship and First Nations Government Internship programs, including facilitating host communities, recruiting interns and supporting the overall growth of the programs.
Amy Denicola also joined the Trust in October to fill the newly created partner programs coordinator position. She works with Gagne to support the Trust’s three partner programs. She is involved with project intakes, liaising with project proponents and reporting among other duties. Denicola was born and raised in Prince George and has a Project Management Certificate from UBC Sauder.
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