Northern Development has approved $185 million in grant funding for organizations in its service region since its inception in 2005. This amount is significant because it is the same dollar amount that the Trust received when it was established through provincial legislation less than two decades ago.
Designed to exist in perpetuity, Northern Development sustainably invests the capital amount and sets annual grant allocation amounts to support valuable economic development work in Northern B.C.
“Northern Development’s investments into Northern B.C. have brought extensive benefits to the region,” said Margo Wagner, chair, Northern Development. “For every $1 of Northern Development’s funding, $4.91 has been leveraged from other sources. The Trust has built a strong reputation for supporting economic and community development projects that benefit rural communities now and into the future.”
Approximately 25 per cent of all Northern Development’s approved projects are in communities of less than 5,000 people. Being able to access external funding helps communities build quality amenities without financially burdening residents. These projects help attract and retain people, increase community resiliency and stimulate entrepreneurial activity.
“Investing in northern communities is crucial to building a strong, sustainable and diversified economy that works for everyone,” said Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation. “Our government is very appreciative of the work Northern Development’s team has done in their region to support people and communities and we look forward to continuing our relationship so we can bring even positive benefits to Northern B.C.”
Through the Grant Writing Support program, which provides annual funding to support a grant writing position, $2 million has been invested into Indigenous governments. This funding pays a maximum of $8,000 a year to help cover the costs of a grant writer’s wages. Grant writers support their communities by preparing funding applications to agencies, foundations and government programs in order to access more funding for projects in their community.
Beyond capacity building funding programs, Northern Development also supports community development and business development through a total of 16 funding programs. All applicants must be based in the Trust’s service region and include local governments, Indigenous governments, registered non-profits and small and medium sized businesses.
Below are descriptions of some projects that have made a significant impact in Northern B.C. communities:
Project: Visitor Information/Interpretive Centre – Village of Valemount
Grant: $345,300 grant for $1,118,045 project
Description: Approved on October 25, 2005, this is the first project ever approved for funding by the Trust. The project resulted in the construction of a 3,600-square foot, two story Visitor Information Centre with new municipal offices on the ground floor. At the grand opening in 2007, chair Bruce Sutherland said, “From the interpretive centre facilities to the showcasing of the natural history of the area, it provides a great welcome to the beautiful mountain backdrop of Valemount. And who wouldn’t want to spend some extra time taking in everything this area has to offer?”
Impact: Since the grand opening of the new visitor centre and municipal offices, tourism in Valemount has developed into a crucial industry for the local economy, thanks in large part to the Valemount Bike Park, which has received nine grants totaling $256,072 from Northern Development since 2014.
“This month will mark 16 years since the Valemount Visitor Centre officially opened to the public and it has proven to be a facility that is vital to the fabric of our community,” said Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson. “The Village of Valemount is incredibly honoured to have been the first applicant to be approved for funding by the Trust back in 2005. That early investment allowed us to build a strong foundation for the tourism industry, which has grown significantly in the past decade. Having a welcoming, informative and purpose-built space for our Visitor Centre attracts travelers, allowing staff to help them make the most of their time in the community, leading to a positive visitor experience and spending at local businesses.”
Project: Regional Recreation Centre Accessibility Upgrades – Northern Rockies Regional Municipality
Grant: $42,859 grant for $61,226 project
Description: Completed in 2020 while the centre was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM) completed numerous accessibility upgrades to the Northern Rockies Regional Recreation Centre. These upgrades included the installation of two wall-mounted lifts, seven automatic door openers and the purchase of a low-profile wheelchair designed to maneuver the deck surfaces and changeroom,
Impact: The Recreation Centre is now completely accessible to all community members, aligning with NRRM’s goals of being a friendly, welcoming and inclusive community. The upgrades gave someone back their physical independence after being in an accident four years earlier.
Sarah Tofte, aquatic manager, NRRM, recounts talking with the patron after her first experience in the upgraded pool: “She was almost speechless. As she worked through getting ready to swim, using the new lift allowed her to move from her chair to the sling, change, and lower herself onto the new pool wheelchair and enter the water all on her own. Furthermore, she was able to complete the entire process again, independently, when she left the swim.
“By now, we all had tears in our eyes as she told us that the accessibility of these lifts has given her a new freedom. Since her accident four years ago, she had not been able to do much of anything for herself, by herself, except for today. Now, she can come to the pool and bring her kids swimming, on her own, without any help. Today she got her first sense of independence since the accident.”
Project: Haida Heritage Centre
Grant: $1.5 million grant for $13.8 million project
Description: This project, approved in 2008, saw the development of five new exhibits at the Haida Heritage Centre, including the Trading House, Performing House, Canoe House, In the Beginning Exhibit and Oral History & Science Exhibit. These new exhibits significantly enhanced the Haida Heritage Centre by showcasing Haida heritage and culture through interactive information.
Impact: The Haida Heritage Centre helped Haida Gwaii diversify its economic structure by creating a cultural tourism industry. The project created approximately 50 new jobs on Haida Gwaii. Marketed internationally, the facility attracts visitors from around the world and encourages them to spend more time on Haida Gwaii, positively contributing to the local economy.
“What Kaay means for me is seeing the young people that are coming into this place and learning about their culture and are sharing it with the world,” said Nathalie Macfarlane, director of HG Museum Society, in 2009 at the Centre’s one year celebration.
Project: Wildfire Recovery Business Support
Grant: $200,000 grant for $552,860 project
Description: After the devastating 2017 wildfire season, Northern Development partnered with Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC Cariboo Chilcotin, CFDC North Cariboo and CFDC Sun Country) and the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition to support affected businesses and non-profit organizations in the Cariboo-Chilcotin/Lillooet area. The combined funding allowed for an Emergency Response Coordinator and seven business ambassadors to work from CFDC offices in Quesnel, Williams Lake and Ashcroft. These people worked to inform and connect impacted organizations with supports that were available to them.
Impact: Combined, the ambassadors directly assisted 3,250 small and medium- sized enterprises throughout the region in accessing the supports that were made available to them by other organizations. Business workshops were also held, welcoming a combined total of 1,384 attendees.
“The Business Ambassador Program provided the Ambassadors with a unique opportunity to network with not only our clients in the area but also service groups that support the community,” said Quesnel Business Ambassadors Laurie Rice and Simon Turner in their final report. “They had a great deal of success with the Red Cross Phase II program where a lot of dollars have come back to those who need it in the community.”
In 2022, The Bralorne Recreation Area (BRA), which is part of the larger Bridge River Valley Community Association (BRVCA) broke ground on new mountain bike trails on Sunshine Mountain, a newly designated provincial recreation site. Holistically planned to provide learning opportunities, sustainable recreation options and new outdoor amenities, the duo of downhill trails and a multi directional climb trail will provide quality mountain biking options for new and experienced riders alike.
Built on the site of a former ski hill that operated during Bralorne’s heyday, the $174,881 project will see a new multi directional climbing trail and two downhill trails built to provincial trail building standards. Trail infrastructure is an effective way for rural communities to promote healthy lifestyles, attract and retain residents and increase local tourism opportunities with fewer barriers to access than other traditional sports facilities.
“There’s something about Sunshine Mountain that draws people in,” said Blake Rowsell, coordinator, Bralorne Recreation Area. “When I issued the request for proposals for the project, there was a strong response due to the uniqueness of the place. People are noticing the work that is being done and they are excited for the positive impact it will have on their life in the Bridge River Valley.”
After a robust response to the request for proposals (RFP) BRA selected two trail builders for the downhill trails – one from Squamish to spend extra time working with and training local volunteers and one from Whistler to work independently. To create the trails in a cost-effective manner, the Squamish trail builder roughed in the trail and left the surface preparation to local volunteers before coming back to polish and finish the trail.
The multi directional trail was a combined effort. The trail was laid out by International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA Canada) and built by a local machine operator. This is perhaps the most exciting part of the project as for advanced riders the trail will be utilized as a climb trail to access the upper part of the trail network. Newer riders will be able to ride the trail up and turn around and ride back down a green level flow trail.
This multi directional trail is all about building community capacity. This includes both providing recreational opportunities for new mountain bikers and developing local capacity to build world class mountain bike trails. Schnarr Excavation, a local business co-owned by brothers, is well-known as some of the best machine operators in the Bridge River Valley. Schnarr Excavation was able to work on their first trail while being mentored by experienced trail builders. This made the climb trail a massive win for the entire community.
“Our community has strongly supported this effort by donating their time to the trails,” explained Rowsell. “We had 60 volunteers from Bralorne, Gun Lake and Gold Bridge work together to develop trails for future enjoyment by the community. During this time, they learned new skills and strengthened relationships with each other. It takes a different type of person to enjoy spending their time in the woods with a shovel and I’m grateful we have so many of these special people in our community.”
BRVCA has cleverly accessed grants from a number of sources for this project, including $100,000 through Northern Development’s Recreation Infrastructure funding program. Other grants came from Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and Recreation Sites and Trails BC and in-kind support from Talisker Resources and Bralorne Gold Mines valued at $15,960.
BRVCA also received other support from SLRD to pay a portion of Rowsell’s wages. Having a dedicated person to apply for funding and manage the project has helped it progress smoothly.
“SLRD is pleased to support BRVCA as they develop plans to create and maintain trail infrastructure in scenic Bridge River Valley,” said Sal DeMare, Electoral Area A Director, SLRD. “Throughout B.C., more and more people are seeking out their local trails and enjoying the mental and physical benefits they provide. This project creates new recreational opportunities for locals and new reasons for people to visit the Valley.”
Funding for the trail construction on Sunshine Mountain came through Northern Development’s Recreation Infrastructure grant program. BRVCA accessed the highest grant available through the program for their project – $100,000 for upgrades or repairs to an existing facility. For new construction project, or substantial upgrades to existing facilities, applicants can receive a maximum of $300,000.
In November 2021, the District of Vanderhoof completed an upgrade project to Burrard Avenue, a main road in the community bringing people from Highway 16 to downtown. To lighten the financial burden, they received a $155,400 Main Street Revitalization – Capital grant from Northern Development, the first approval through the funding program.
The grant enabled the District of Vanderhoof to brighten their main street by removing 56 outdated and dim light fixtures and replace them with new fixtures and LED lights. Improved lighting helps connect Vanderhoof’s downtown core with new amenities at Riverside Park, encouraging people to travel between the two places and increasing safety.
“Receiving this grant helped spark our efforts to improve lighting along Burrard Avenue,” said Mayor Kevin Moutray, District of Vanderhoof. “The new fixtures and lights create a welcoming and safe ambience for all those travelling in the downtown area, regardless of if they are travelling by foot, bicycle or vehicle. The upgrades also signal to our business community that we are willing to do our part to keep property values stable through aesthetics and continual improvements and thus encourage them to also invest in their business and our community.”
Modernizing the lighting goes a long way in increasing the visual appeal of downtown Vanderhoof. Having an attractive and vibrant area attracts and retains businesses, helping the District maintain a zero vacancy rate in downtown commercial buildings.
The new lights align with the District of Vanderhoof’s efforts to encourage active transportation and outdoor sport activities by upgrading access and connecting all their recreation facilities. Well-lit streets and sidewalks make it safer for pedestrians, runners and cyclists to travel between home, work, shopping and activities.
Introduced in September 2020, the Main Street Revitalization – Capital funding program has approved funding for seven projects, totaling more than $1.2 million in grants for communities to improve their main street areas. These investments benefit local businesses and residents while positively contributing to the local visitor experience. The maximum grant amount available is $200,000 per project, with a lifetime maximum of $500,000 per community.
To support intentional downtown revitalization planning, local governments can also apply to the Main Street Revitalization – Planning funding program. Up to $20,000 is available to help municipalities or regional districts develop a community-wide vision for their downtown and an action plan that identifies ways to achieve the vision.
For 10 months beginning in 2020, Robson Design Build worked with a professional consultant to help them learn about different elements of operating a general contracting business. In operation since 2012, Robson Design Build realized the need for external education and support to help them weather the economic downturn and successfully bid on large-scale projects.
Since completing the consulting project in June 2021, Robson Design Build has experienced many benefits to their business, including smoother operations, increased revenue and faster project delivery.
“It’s been a huge help to have a better understanding of contract law, project scheduling and learning how to build a great team is really what has made the biggest difference,” said Andreas Thoni, owner, Robson Design Build.
To assist with the costs of the $44,659 project, Robson Design Build received a $25,000 Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate from Northern Development, which they learned about through social media.
After working with the consultant, Robson Design Build grew their team by adding a full-time office manager, a full-time construction estimator and a site superintendent. Combined, the new staff members have made operations smoother and provided Thoni with the time to develop the business and effectively manage multiple projects at the same time.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt their business through the postponement of many of the remote construction projects Robson Design Build specializes in, the skills learned has allowed them to pivot and successfully take on many new builds which they would not have otherwise been qualified for without the training.
“One of the projects we are most proud of is the Valemount Trail Network,” said Thoni. “It is not the biggest project Robson has built, but it has definitely benefited the community of Valemount the most.”
Thoni has been significantly involved in the development of Valemount Trail Network since 1999, including the park’s first master plan. Robson has been contracted to build many of the trails within the network, with an overall goal of providing the highest experiential value, usability and aesthetics. The Robson team has worked closely with Curtis Pawliuk (VARDA general manager), the bike committee and many other partners to continue to develop the trail network.
The Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate is currently accepting applications from small and medium-sized businesses in northern and central B.C. Funding applications are received and reviewed on an on-going basis, with no need to wait for application deadlines.
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