February 2020 - Newsletter

In this issue

Photo: William, Robert and Douglas Rummel on the boardwalk in front of their Barkerville business Credit: Northern Development

Barkerville business launches e-commerce site

In 2018, Mason & Daly General Merchants in Barkerville were approved for $12,375 through the Competitiveness Consulting Wildfire Recovery Rebate program to help them develop an e-commerce platform. The need to vary and expand revenue opportunities was fully realized during the catastrophic 2017 wildfire season.

“The impact of the 2017 wildfire season on our business was truly devastating,” said William Rummel, partner at Mason & Daly. “It did, however, force us to look for new ways to survive such natural disasters. While no fires were actively threatening Barkerville, the fires did shut down Highway 97 from July to late August. Since Highway 97 is the main route into Barkerville, and July and August make up about 60 per cent of our revenues for the year, the closure had a significant impact on our bottom line.”

Having the ability to sell their products online diversifies their business and allows them to continue earning revenue, even during unexpected weather events and the months when Barkerville storefronts are closed for the season.

“The ability to open a webstore that is not quite so dependent on physical traffic has started to improve our ability to weather the impacts of the fire and smoke season,” explained Rummel. “It also expands our season into the winter months, which combined with Barkerville’s expanded winter activities, has made our future look much brighter.”

Developing an online shopping platform has increased Mason & Daly’s business exposure, opened a new way to earn revenue and created an improved inventory system. The updated inventory system has resulted in more efficient ordering practices, leading to shelves and webpages filled with the products that customers are looking for.

“The first few months of the webstore’s operation have proven to be quite a learning experience,” said Rummel. “The inevitable pitfalls of a new endeavor made themselves quite obvious from the get-go, but we are smoothing the way forward and the operation is progressing well. Still to come are improvements in our social media presence and expanding the range of products showcased in the webstore.”

In July and August 2017, Barkerville reported a 54 per cent decline in visits compared to the previous year. Low visitation resulted in net revenue decreasing by 50 per cent. With the implementation of e-commerce opportunities, Mason & Daly are forecasting a 20 per cent increase in revenues over four years.

Mason & Daly’s e-commerce site provides shoppers with the opportunity to browse goods from four other Barkerville businesses: Eldorado Goldpanning & Gifts, C. Strouss & Company, A. McPherson Watchmaker & Jeweler and McMahon’s Confectionary.

All photo credit: District of New Hazelton

District of New Hazelton receives $215,000 grant to renovate building

In 2011, the District of New Hazelton Mayor and Council recognized that their community would soon need a new place to celebrate, participate in workshops, meet, cook and more so they began a reserve fund with the goal of purchasing a space to create into a community centre. In 2018, this opportunity was realized, and the District of New Hazelton purchased a 7,080 square-foot building that was originally built as a store in the local mall. In August 2019, the Erwin Stege Community Centre opened to the public.

Hannalore Stege, celebrates the opening of the new Erwin Stege Community Centre by cutting the ribbon. The facility is named after Erwin Stege, Hannalore’s husband.

After signing the purchase agreement, the District of New Hazelton successfully applied to Northern Development’s Economic Diversification Infrastructure program for $215,014 to help make the space welcoming to the community’s needs. The Trust’s grant, along with the District’s reserve, meant that the building could be renovated without financially burdening local taxpayers.

“Commemorating the grand opening of the Erwin Stege Community Centre shortly after the Upper Skeena Recreation Centre’s opening celebrations was absolutely incredible for our community,” said Mayor Gail Lowry of District of Hazelton. “The new community centre is well-equipped to host more than 200 people and its versatility means that multiple user groups can rent different areas simultaneously. From a modern commercial kitchen to rentable office space, the centre fills many gaps that New Hazelton had. Thanks to savvy financial planning by District staff and Northern Development’s grant, we’re proud that we were able to provide taxpayers with a new welcoming facility without financially encumbering them.”

The new community centre replaces the former community hall, which was operated by the Skeena Lions Club and needed significant repairs that were estimated to cost more than the value of the building. Extensive work was completed at the new community centre, with support poles being replaced with a structural support beam, insulation was added, new floors, ceiling and walls were installed and the commercial kitchen, meeting space, office spaces and washrooms were all updated.

“The facility is so great,” said Dianne Starr, a local caterer that has used the new kitchen for multiple events. “Everything’s absolutely top-notch, there’s lots of stoves and lots of space for preparing food for lots of people. It’s really set up our community and it’s nice knowing we have an up-to-date facility ready to host events. I give it a thumbs up.”

Being able to complete and customize the new facility to the needs of the community meant that the District of New Hazelton can welcome multiple user groups concurrently. This allows the community centre to better serve more people while also providing increased revenue for the District of New Hazelton.

Funding for the Erwin Stege Community Centre comes from Northern Development’s Economic Diversification Infrastructure funding program. This grant program invests in major infrastructure project to strengthen the local economy. Up to $250,000 in grant funding to a maximum of 70 per cent of the project’s budget is available to First Nations, local governments and non-profit organizations.

The exterior of the new community gathering space. Photo credit: Ashcroft Indian Band

Q&A with Ashcroft Indian Band

In 2018, Northern Development approved $30,000 for the Ashcroft Indian Band to develop a community gathering space after the 2017 Elephant Hill Wildfire, which caused numerous homes and buildings to be lost. We took some time to talk with Chief Greg Blain and Jodene Blain, band administrator, to learn what their new gathering space means for the community following the emotional and physical toll of the 2017 wildfires.

Q:The roundhouse kit for your community gathering space was thoughtfully donated by Skeetchestn Indian Band, a neighbouring community. Can you describe how this generosity uplifted your band following the devastation of the Elephant Hill Wildfire?

A It was such a kind gesture and we are extremely grateful and proud to have one of their beautiful buildings in our community. This building represents a positive step in our rebuilding is a sign that we bounced back and our resilient.

Q: Can you illustrate to the readers what the roundhouse is like?

A: It is everything we hoped it would be and more, we are thrilled with how it turned out. It ties in so nicely with the vision we have for our community alongside our new seniors complex. It is such a unique design and we thought long and hard over all the details such as the stain for the beams and colors through out to make sure it is warm and inviting for our community and will be used to host a large number of events and we are already booking up for the spring and summer.

Inside the roundhouse.

Q: It’s been almost six months since the roundhouse celebrated its grand opening. How have people in the community made use of the space? What are some important programs or events that have been held in the new facility?

A: We are just about to hold a community to community forum with the Village of Ashcroft and we have used it to deliver hampers to our community and although the construction took longer then we expected, we are thrilled to use the facility this spring and summer to hold our summer reading camps, community lunches, movie nights, among other things.

Q: Looking to the future, what role do you think the roundhouse will have within your community and the surrounding area?

A: This building will be our new community and healing centre and will be used to host most of our community events as well as more formal meetings with our partners and neighboring communities.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A: We would just like to thank Northern Development for their funding which made this building possible and it is such an amazing addition to our community and an important symbol of resiliency and new beginnings after the wildfire.

A Wilson Bros. transport truck with wide base tires All photo credit: Wilson Bros. Enterprises Ltd. and FPInnovations

Houston-based business tests wide-base tires for log hauling

In November 2019, Wilson Bros. Enterprises Ltd. (Wilson Bros.) successfully applied to Northern Development’s Northern Industries Innovation Fund for $19,675 to conduct a trial aimed at improving safety, production and revenue while reducing fuel and greenhouse gases. To do this, Wilson Bros. will install wide-based tires on on-highway/off-highway log hauling nine-axle trucks, replacing the traditional dual tires that are common on logging trucks for one season, including spring breakup.

Already, the advantages of wide-based tires have been proven for on-highway applications through fuel consumption tests conducted in this trial by FPInnovations, a partner with Wilson Bros. In FPInnovations’ prior, on-highway fuel consumption test, they found that there was up to a 9.7 per cent improvement in fuel economy for a tractor-trailer combination equipped with wide-base tires instead of dual tires. In addition, wide-base tires cost less, weigh less and have lower rolling resistance than their dual tire counterparts.

“Wilson Bros. is eager to complete this testing and to hopefully implement wide-base tires on more of our logging trucks,” said Steve Wilson, owner and president of Wilson Bros. ”One of the exciting aspects of wide-base tires is that they weigh less than the dual tires they replace. This means that the truck’s tare weight will be less which subsequently allows for more payload and more revenue for our company. Also, wide-base tires have increased flotation which may extend our hauling season by allowing us to continue transporting logs as the ground softens.”

The project has many outcomes, including: determining the impact that single wide tires have on fuel consumption for on/off highway log transport; evaluating the wear characteristics, durability and puncture resistance of wide-base tires; qualitatively evaluating the tires’ handling through driver interviews; providing an economic cost benefit analysis based on improved payload, fuel saving, tire service life and safety to the public from less rock throw; and to justify or not the use of wide-base tires on more logging truck configurations in Northern B.C. and other areas.

“FPInnovations is pleased to be partnering with Wilson Bros. to discover the benefits of using wide-base tires in on- and off-highway log hauling,” said Dave Belyea, FPInnovations’ industry advisor to the northern interior. “This builds upon the work that we’ve done regarding the performance of wide-base tires on highways in regards to reduced tare weights, reduced fuel usage and safety.  We’re eager to learn more about the wide base tires and their performance in this new environment. This project will benefit other transportation companies besides log transportation in Northern B.C. as FPInnovations will be making the trial’s results public once the process is complete.”

Incorporated in 1973, by current owner Steve Wilson’s father and grandfather, Wilson Bros. has experienced changes in the forestry industry and now they are actively taking steps to research new ways to increase safety and productivity while reducing costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Wilson Bros. harvests and transports 550,000m3 of timber annually and builds approximately 70 kilometres of roads each year.

Launched in January 2018, the Northern Industries Innovation Fund supports innovative project across a variety of industries. Up to $50,000 to a maximum of 50 per cent of a project’s eligible budget is available to small and medium enterprises. This program helps Northern B.C. businesses improve their competitiveness while generating incremental revenue and new jobs.

Since 2015, Northern Development has invested more than $720,000 into 245 events in its service region through the Fabulous Festivals and Events funding program. Eligible events may receive up to $5,000 in grant funding to help build their event.

Music and art festivals are the most popular, with 72 events receiving funding since 2015. Seasonal events, like fall fairs and winter festivals, have also been successful in applying for funding, with 18 and 14 in each category, respectively, being approved. We can’t forget our canine friends! In 2019 and 2020, the Trust has approved funding for the Caledonia Classic Sled Dog Race in Fort St. James.

In Dawson Creek, Dan and Tracy Strasky are the third-generation owners of Lawrence Meat Packing Co. and The Butcher Block. Tracy is the grand-daughter of Joe Lafond, who bought the company in 1944, six years after Glover Lawrence, the company’s namesake, established it. The family-owned-and-operated business takes pride in continuing the same tradition of top-notch customer service and quality meat which Joe and Irene Lafond were known for decades earlier.

“It’s been more than 75 years since my grandfather bought Lawrence Meat Packing and we’re proud to continue building upon his legacy of high quality meats and friendly service,” said Tracy Strasky, co-owner, Lawrence Meat Packing and The Butcher Block. “Our family appreciates the incredible opportunities that living in the Peace Region offers and we’re pleased to contribute to the community by supporting local producers and offering superior products to our customers.”

Lawrence Meat Packing and The Butcher Block prepare and sell a wide assortment of beef, pork, chicken and seafood products and also stocks a wide array of gourmet condiments, cheese, jellies and sauces. The Butcher Block has two retail locations, the original in Dawson Creek and a new location in Fort St. John.

Learn more about this family business by reading their Love Northern BC business profile.

Less than one year after being launched, more than $360,000 has been approved through housing programs

Over the past 10 months, Northern Development has been offering a suite of housing programs to support local governments in the creation of new, market-based housing units across Northern B.C.

The trio of programs are designed to support local governments through assessing their community’s housing needs, to hiring a planner for a 12-month contract, to incentivizing private sector housing developments.

Northern Development has already approved 22 projects totaling $364,230 through these three programs. The Housing Needs Assessment funding program has seen 17 projects approved, four Community Planning for Housing projects have been approved and one Northern Housing Incentive project for the City of Williams Lake has been approved.