In May 2020, Northern Development approved a $250,000 grant through its Economic Diversification Infrastructure program to the City of Quesnel for a new food innovation hub, to be known as Sprout Kitchen. The project will see Sprout Kitchen spring to life, with extensive renovations that will help ensure quality food items are being safely handled and produced.
“Sprout Kitchen will benefit the people of the Cariboo through quality, locally grown food, job creation and the promotion of the region’s agricultural opportunities” said Amy Reid, manager of economic development and tourism, City of Quesnel. “Local food systems retain wealth and grow the local economy by supporting local producers and fostering community engagement – both have a positive ripple effect on local economies.”
The food hub will be the newest member of an inter-connected network of food hubs in the province, including the Core Food Innovation Centre at the University of British Columbia. B.C.’s food hub network provides food growers and producers, beverage and natural health product entrepreneurs with the expertise, resources and tools to innovate and commercialize their products to start or expand their local business. It also creates a more localized food sector which directly increases the number of farm-to-institution products that are available for regional hospitals, universities, care homes and others.
“As the voice for businesses in West Quesnel, we support the creation of Sprout Kitchen, which will diversify the local and regional economy,” said Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, executive director, West Quesnel Business Association. “The local economy was hit hard from the recent mill closures and shift curtailments in the forestry sector, which resulted in the loss of hundreds of jobs. These job losses showed us that the diversification of our local economy is extremely important to the health of our population and it is more relevant than ever before.”
Once fully operational later this year, Sprout Kitchen will offer new and existing food businesses and community groups access to shared processing and testing equipment, food business advisory services, product development services, analytical services, applied research opportunities and education and training related to food processing and food safety. Their service region will span from Vanderhoof to 100 Mile House.
On October 15, 2020, the College of New Caledonia’s Prince George (CNC) campus marked the completion of the research and teaching greenhouse project. Approved in 2017, this multi-year, $210,887 project provides extensive benefits to the CNC, public, local producers and technology companies. Users will be able to research, develop and showcase emerging agriculture technologies, develop and deliver new training for students, community and business. The greenhouse will also support food services on campus, including the Professional Cook program.
“This greenhouse will benefit the regional agricultural sector through an applied research and training facility,” said Sorin Pasca, director, applied research and innovation at CNC. “Growers will be able to increase their competitiveness and develop new market. For the community, there will be increased access to local and healthy food choices, including for students who eat on campus. Students will also benefit from enhanced educational opportunities that will prepare them to drive innovation in the regional agricultural sector. Additionally, the College will reduce operating expenses while creating new revenue streams.”
The greenhouse is 42 feet in diameter and its dome is suitable for Northern B.C.’s climate and local snow loads. It features cutting edge horticulture technologies in four areas: lighting, heating, growing systems and greenhouse management. CNC is building relationships with local company partners who are conducting research and developing new technologies in these areas, providing training on their use and helping increase their use throughout the region with both new and existing producers.
Northern Development contributed $133,205 through its former Economic Diversification Infrastructure program to this project. Under the Trust’s new community development programs, this project would now be eligible for funding through the new Economic Infrastructure program. The Economic Infrastructure program offers up to $100,000 to a maximum of 70 per cent or $300,000 to a maximum of 50 per cent of an eligible project’s budget.
In 2020, Nawican Friendship Centre spruced up the outside of their Dawson Creek building. To assist with the costs of adding exterior wood detailing, planters and fresh paint, they received a $2,500 rebate through Northern Development’s Business Façade Improvement program. Projects completed through the program enhance the economic viability and vibrancy of communities in the Trust’s service region through visual improvements to commercial buildings.
“We would like to express our sincere gratitude for the opportunity to give our Centre a facelift,” said Jannah Kohlman, executive director, Nawican Friendship Centre. “We have had overwhelming support and positive feedback from our clients and members, as well as many community members that have noticed the wonderful improvement!”
The Business Façade Improvement Program also increases community pride by improving the community’s appearance, supporting business and resident recruitment. It also directly benefits the business as people may be drawn to drop into the business after seeing the exterior upgrades.
“Our statistics have increased since the renovation was completed,” continued Kohlman. “We have had more donations, as well as new clients, new volunteers and new faces stopping in to see what the Nawican Friendship Centre has to offer.”
In 2020, Northern Development approved funding through the Business Façade Improvement program for 26 local governments throughout Northern B.C. Each local government receives up to $20,000 to grant to successful projects. Commercial building owners then apply to their local government for a grant of up to $5,000 per façade improvement.
Northern Acreage Supply, a Prince George-based agricultural supplier, was forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to establish an e-commerce store to retain customers and potentially expand their customer base throughout the region. A $4,896 Small Business Recovery (SBR) Consulting Rebate from Northern Development covered 85 per cent of the costs of developing a new e-commerce website.
“Receiving this rebate helped us diversify so that we can continue to serve our customers, especially during these uncertain times when our physical store may not be allowed to help customers in person,” said Kristal Goode, owner, Northern Acreage Supply. “Prior to completing this project, we were concerned that our clients might turn to online shopping from other businesses because we were not present in the online market. Now we can continue helping our customers with their acreage needs across Northern B.C.”
Goode said the novelty of the new e-commerce platform has yet to wear off as staff get excited each time a customer places an order through the online function.
By working with a professional consultant, Northern Acreage was able to develop a functional and attractive website. This new feature will strengthen their business and position them for growth in the future.
The SBR Consulting Rebate was introduced by Northern Development in 2020 to support businesses in an assortment of industries as they adjusted to the challenges brought by the pandemic. The new program provides a rebate of 85 per cent of an eligible project’s rebate, up to $25,000. The funding program is temporarily closed to new applications until June 1, 2021.
On March 23, Northern Development announced funding for 10 projects through the BC Hydro Peace Agricultural Compensation Fund. Approved projects range from the construction of a commercial kitchen, farm diversification, fencing and more.
“These are some exciting new project approvals for the Peace Region,” said Joel McKay, CEO, Northern Development Initiative Trust. “It is great to see the interest and commitment to providing locally sourced food to people and communities in the area. All of these projects will benefit not only farmers and ranchers, but local businesses and young people.”
Click here to read the full news release and learn more about some of the approved projects in the Peace Region.
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