March 2013 - Newsletter

In this issue

Northern Development at a glance


The millions of dollars in funding the Trust committed to 1,068 projects since its inception


The number of jobs that have been created


The number of funding partners the Trust has teamed up with to attract more than $1 billion in new funding to the region


The percentage of investments in communities with less than 5,000 people


The millions invested in new capital and training by supported companies


The millions of dollars community grant writers have been approved for in funding since 2010

Step aside Whistler – it’s time to ride the Cariboo.

For the past several years, four communities in B.C.’s historic Cariboo have joined forces to capitalize on one of the region’s best-kept secrets – more than 600 kilometres of single track mountain bike trails that range from cross-country to epic alpine.

According to Justin Calof, executive director of the Cariboo Mountain Bike Consortium, the initiative has two primary goals.

“One, to grow the economic impact of mountain biking in the Cariboo, and the second is to promote a vibrant mountain bike culture across the region,” explained Calof. “The first goal is the meat and potatoes of what we try to do, it evolved out of a group of businesses, mountain bike clubs and individuals throughout the region. It’s also a recognition that the pine beetle is forcing the economy through some very serious transition, and mountain biking has a role to play in the diversification of the economy. “The group’s web portal,, features a host of trail networks in Williams Lake, Wells, 100 Mile House and Quesnel. Users can click through each community and visit discussion forums, explore trail networks, view photos and video and find lists of local amenities and even travel itineraries.

Mountain biking as an adventure sport and tourism activity has been “growing by leaps and bounds” in the last five years, said Calof, but most of the traditional market has been concentrated on the South Coast, the Sea-to-Sky corridor and the Kootenays.

That’s forced the Cariboo to position its offering differently in order to attract riders from the southern reaches of the province and elsewhere.

“People have to fly or drive here and a six hour drive can be a bit of a deterrent,” he said. “What most market research is showing now is that mountain biking is a travel motivator on its own, and people are travelling great distances, even as far as the Yukon, to go on mountain biking expeditions.” In addition to hundreds of kilometres of single track, Calof said one of the unique aspects about the Cariboo is that visitors can fly into the region and visit four very distinct communities within a short distance of one another.

"Mountain biking is a travel motivator on its own, and people are travelling great distances, even as far as the Yukon, to go on mountain biking expeditions"
Justin Calof
Executive Director,
Cariboo Mountain Bike Consortium

The economic impact of mountain biking in the Cariboo was estimated to be approximately $1.9 million in 2009, according to Calof.

Since then, the market has grown some 11.5%. Northern Development Initiative Trust helped fund the Cariboo Mountain Bike Consortium marketing initiative, providing $19,750. The Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition and Williams Lake Cycling Club also provided funding to the marketing initiative. Additionally, Northern Development also provided funding to the Williams Lake Cycling Club and City of Williams Lake for the development of a signature single track trail and a second marketing campaign on Pinkbike – mountain biking’s premier online magazine. The funding for both of those initiatives totalled $35,245.

Tourism BC, the Province of British Columbia, the City of Williams Lake and the Williams Lake Cycling Club also contributed funding to those initiatives. Calof said marketing efforts will continue this year, and a lot of time and energy will also be poured into building new trails and improving others to continually improve the Cariboo’s unique mountain biking experience.

City of Prince George Mayor Shari Green (right), InvestGo Ventures president Gordon Bliss and Northern Development Initiative Trust CEO Janine North pose in front of eight new town homes that were built with the help of a downtown revitalization program

Downtown Prince George is home to eight brand new townhomes, in part thanks to the city’s Downtown Revitalization Tax Exemption and Incentives Program.

InVestgo’s Crescent Townhomes are among the first new developments in Prince George’s downtown core in some time. The eight units, which all include three bedrooms and doublecar garages, were in part built with the help of a partnership established between the City of Prince George and Northern Development Initiative Trust in 2011.

That partnership, a tax exemption and incentive program, was designed to encourage new market and non-market housing, commercial and mixed-use development, green development and facade improvements. The program provided developers with repayable funding in an amount similar to the municipal tax exemption they would normally receive over the term of a revitalization tax exemption agreement.

Gordon Bliss, president of InVestgo Ventures Ltd., a residential development company focused on Prince George, called the program one of the most innovative concepts out there.

“It helped our project to move forward as we could use the tax incentive money as equity with our financial institution,” said Bliss. “This incentive also allowed us to upgrade the look of the buildings inside and out and still offer the units at a favourable price. By all accounts and comments, viewings have been positive and complimentary of our efforts to bring living downtown a reality.”

"These new town homes are proof that partnerships and collaboration in our city can drive new investment and revitalize the heart of Prince George"
Shari Green
City of Prince George

Bliss added that he would like to do more such projects downtown.

City of Prince George Mayor Shari Green also recognized the positive impacts of the project.

“The partnership between the City of Prince George and Northern Development Initiative Trust was designed to reinvigorate our downtown and we’re seeing those results now,” said Green. “These new town homes are proof that partnerships and collaboration in our city can drive new investment and revitalize the heart of Prince George.”

Haida Gwaii’s Misty Isles Economic Development Society (MIEDS) is helping businesses on the islands reap the benefits of major contracts.

Last year, MIEDS launched – an information-sharing portal for small businesses on Haida Gwaii, which includes a procurement database that helps major contractors connect with local businesses that have specific expertise.

Mary Lou Schroeder, an administrative assistant with MIEDS, said the database collects skills and relevant business experience information from local small businesses and makes it available to contractors on the islands.

Haida Gwaii is about to embark on a number of major infrastructure projects, including the Masset Airport and Queen Charlotte Hospital, which will bring new contractors to the islands.

Schroeder said the database would help connect off-island contractors with local businesses to ensure the people of Haida Gwaii reap the benefits of major projects.

So far, the feedback about the portal has been excellent, she added.

“The service providers are very supportive of it, and the contractors really appreciate having that information at their fingertips,” said Schroeder.

The web portal also contains program and services information for employers, skills training opportunities via the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society and a variety of reports and information produced by MIEDS.

"The service providers are very supportive of it, and the contractors really appreciate having that information at their fingertips"
Mary Lou Schroeder
Administrative Assistant,
Misty Isles Economic Development Society

Local small businesses, whether they offer equipment, land, rooms or technical support, are encouraged to visit the site and add their information to the procurement database.

After three years of hard work on the part of communities and regional districts throughout central and northern B.C. – the province’s first four investment portals are up and running to wide acclaim.

In January, Northern Development Initiative Trust, in collaboration with communities throughout the Cariboo, launched the fourth and final investment portal – Invest Cariboo-Chilcotin Coast BC.

The site features an interactive map that identifies key major projects and investment opportunities throughout the region, including specific details about each project. In addition, the website includes comprehensive profiles of regional communities and relevant information to showcase the CaribooChilcotin Coast as a preferred place to invest.

“I applaud the work Northern Development Initiative Trust is doing on behalf of our community and region to spur economic development,” said City of Quesnel Mayor Mary Sjostrom. “By collaborating on innovative initiatives such as this one, we strengthen our individual economic diversification programs, while broadcasting the area’s investment opportunities to the world.”

Local government economic development offices throughout the region played a critical role in the development of Invest Cariboo-Chilcotin Coast BC, developing content for community profiles and working with business and industry partners to develop profiles of key investments.

“The Invest Cariboo-Chilcotin Coast web portal offers great opportunities for investment and economic development within the central B.C. region, “stated Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond. “This site will also provide so much needed awareness to our region and its importance as an economic driver for the province of British Columbia’s economy.”

Invest Cariboo-Chilcotin Coast BC is the fourth and final investment portal of its kind developed to showcase the incredible amount of economic activity underway across central and northern British Columbia.

“Partnered initiatives like this project benefit local economies and foster greater regional collaboration,” said Williams Lake Mayor Kerry Cook. “A regionally based web portal is an effective marketing approach to connect potential investors with Cariboo-Chilcotin Coast opportunities and educate those circles about important economic linkages between our communities. We are excited about the value of this website as an economic development tool in not only promoting opportunities but assisting us in enhancing communication with the private sector.”

Invest Northwest BC, Invest North Central BC and Invest Northeast BC were the first investment portals of their kind in B.C. and were launched in 2012, quickly earning tremendous support from the business community and investors both in B.C. and abroad.

“These investment portals are not only important tools that help communities connect with potential investors, but also evidence of stronger partnerships and collaboration throughout central and northern B.C.,” said Janine North, Chief Executive Officer, Northern Development Initiative Trust.

Invest Northwest BC, the first of its kind, was launched last spring and has since gone on to win a ‘Technology Provider of the Year Award’ at a gala during the 10th annual B.C. Natural Resources Forum.

Since its launch, Invest Northwest BC has had more than 36,000 unique web visitors from around the world. Close to 90% of the visits originated from North America. Some 66% of the people who visit the site are new to it, while more than 33% are return visitors.

Derek Baker, economic development officer for the Prince Rupert and Port Edward Economic Development Corp., said approximately 90% of the investment inquiries he fields regarding land and business opportunities gathered his contact details from Invest Northwest BC.

“This is a welcomed trend as we are now dealing with knowledge based inquiries rather than preliminary information seeking inquires,” said Baker. “It has also given us a great opportunity to stay in touch and up to date with industry partners while also creating an image for our region as an investment/development friendly environment.”

Evan van Dyk, economic development officer at the Terrace Economic Development Authority, echoed Baker’s comments.

“Invest Northwest BC has been the most valuable economic development tool for Terrace,” said van Dyk. “It has generated dozens of leads of potential investors looking to locate in Terrace. Local business owners have used it to learn of new projects and find contact information of the companies they hope to contract for.”

Northern Development and its partner communities throughout central and northern B.C. will continue to monitor the success of the investment portals.

Janine NorthChief Executive Officer
Northern Devleopment Initiative Trust

Last month, I spent an evening championing the ‘northern’ story down south in West Vancouver.

The audience was keen to hear about all of the exciting projects and opportunities on the table in the province’s least known region. I believe that we have more to be proud of in central and northern B.C. than ever before.

We are not without challenges, but the opportunities for success are here – we must only reach out and take them. Here is a copy of the message I delivered in West Vancouver:

Northern Development Initiative Trust exists to serve the communities of central and northern British Columbia. How do we do that?

Our mandate, which was created through an act of legislation in 2005, is to deliver critical grant, loan and capacity building programs that sustainably dispense funding to high value projects that support community and economic development.

Another one of our objectives is to raise the profile of central and northern B.C. in regions beyond our own in an effort to attract new residents, workers and investors to the region.

$70 billion. That is the opportunity in northern British Columbia today.

It’s a big number, so large it’s difficult to fathom. But that’s what this region is standing on the cusp of – a level of diversified investment unparalleled in the history of this province.

"$70 billion in major capital projects are proposed across northern B.C. in the coming years"
Janine North
Northern Development Initiative Trust

From Haida Gwaii to the Alberta border, the streets, highways, rail lines, ports and airports are teeming with activity. New offices are opening. New construction camps are being built. Jobs are being created.

The activity is being felt across a diverse array of sectors, from energy and mining, to forestry, transportation, construction, advanced education and health care.

The north is quickly shedding its reputation as the Lower Mainland’s backyard. Instead, it is leading the charge for sustainable diversified economic development in the 21st century.

Now, back to that big number. Some $70 billion in major capital projects are proposed across northern B.C. in the coming years.

Communities from the coast to the Rocky Mountains stand to benefit – and they’re already feeling it.

Prince George, for example, experienced historic levels of employment last year with more than 50,000 people employed.

The Prince George Airport also experienced recordbreaking passenger numbers last year. And Fort Nelson, which most British Columbians never see, had the busiest small airport in the country last year.

In addition to the critical grant and loan programs the Trust already provides to dozens of communities, First Nations and businesses, we’ve have also taken a leadership role preparing the region for the onslaught of investment activity to come.

Last year, in collaboration with communities across the region we launched four investment portals to help business leaders connect with opportunities throughout central and northern B.C.

We also launched a series of business boot camps, helping to prepare small and medium-sized businesses in the north to land contracts with major projects.

But I’m not here to tell you about every little thing we’re doing. I’m here to tell the northern story – so that we as British Columbians can build a stronger north together.

Whether we’re in Fort Nelson, Prince George or West Vancouver – this province belongs to all of us, and all of us share its bounty.

Here is an example of what I mean: most people don’t know that 80% of provincial exports come from natural resources, most of them produced in the rural areas of this province. Spectra Energy’s McMahon gas processing plant near Fort St. John has been operating for decades, transforming raw gas into natural gas used to heat your homes. It also produces other products such as butane and sulfur – which Vancouverites see in their harbor every day.Similarly, northern logging is connected to log booms on the Lower Fraser River – a familiar site to anyone who visits the Tri-Cities or Fraser Valley.

And the coal that piles up at Neptune and Westshore terminals comes from the Kootenays and northeast region of this province near Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge.

There is no question that B.C.’s success – Vancouver’s success – depends on the products that the rest of the province produces.

But we are at a crossroads in British Columbia.

Business in B.C. needs a wake-up call.

A large contingent of the province’s population has become psychologically averse to industrialization. The mines, mills and pipelines that built this province no longer match the 21st century mentality of “beautiful” British Columbia.

Our past mistakes have left us with a province with extreme uncertainty over the land base, a lack of treaties with First Nations and a relationship between industry and activism that is dysfunctional at best.

These challenges threaten the major economic projects that could propel this province toward future success. They threaten small towns and cities. They threaten the Lower Mainland.

I’ll be the first to admit that not every industrial project is right for this province. These projects must be developed responsibly and sustainably.

But we know what fuels this province. We know that it was sawmills and port activities that created some of the first jobs on False Creek, providing Vancouver’s economy with a baseline that eventually supported further diversification into new industries such as technology, film and television and others.

It was the pulp mills built in Prince George in the 1960s that supported the community and helped it grow to eventually build the University of Northern British Columbia – an institution that is now one of the city’s major employers, shares an international award with Harvard and is the second ranked undergraduate university in Canada.

The history of this province is one where the land base has provided the means to build a successful, diversified economy and first-rate lifestyle.

The economic initiatives in rural towns and smaller cities have supported Vancouver, and helped it become one of the most desirable places to live in the world.

Just the same, Vancouver’s international expertise provides rural towns and smaller cities with a connection to the rest of the world.

We are connected. We are dependent on one another. And we need to join forces to build this province together, or that $70 billion opportunity I mentioned earlier will disappear on the next tide.

The north is, in many ways, the economic engine that drives this province.

I’ll end with one thought: we stand at the frontier of the new British Columbia.

A view of the Douglas Channel and coastal mountains from Kitimat, B.C.

All eyes are turned toward Kitimat these days as the small, ocean-side city prepares itself for billions of dollars in new investment activity.

Just a few years ago, Kitimat, which is home to more than 8,000 residents, hit hard times when its pulp mill and methanol production plant shut down – eliminating hundreds of jobs.

But in the last year, the District of Kitimat has gone from gloom to boom amid a $3.3 billion modernization of its long-standing Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter.

The coastal community, which sits at the head of the massive Douglas Channel, is also being considered a site for several multi-billion dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, which would generate thousands of more jobs.

The city is fielding dozens of visits from foreign investment interests these days thanks to its access to B.C. products and proximity to Asian markets via the Pacific Ocean.

To learn more about this bustling B.C. city, check out Northern Development’s website.