May 2021 - Newsletter

In this issue

Northern Development at a glance


approved project applications in 2021


of funds committed to projects in 2021


projects approved since 2005


of Trust funds invested in projects since 2005

Photo: Woodhouse Cottages and Ranch

In May 2020, Northern Development approved a $14,205 Small Business Recovery (SBR) Consulting Rebate for Woodhouse Cottages and Ranch to help them strategize their recovery from the losses they experienced from restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That year, the accommodation business had lost approximately 75 per cent of their local and regional guest bookings, nearly all their international guest bookings and all the weddings and family reunions that had been reserved at their property.

To help guide their recovery, Woodhouse Cottages and Ranch built upon their unique strengths and decided to showcase their property as an experience for education and agri-tourism, in addition to being a unique destination west of Prince George. The project allowed them to produce incredible video and photo assets, understand creative messaging and to utilize their existing website for marketing and promotion.

“Having the honour of being recipients of the NDIT grant, we were fortunate enough to have a local consulting team help us build and plan for recovering our business through and beyond COVID,” said Maureen Woodhouse, owner, Woodhouse Cottages and Ranch. “They strategized on how best to showcase our guest ranch; beginning locally, then regionally and, as we move through COVID restrictions, nationally and eventually internationally. Our consulting team was instrumental in helping us find out what we needed and how to obtain it. A video production company came on board to bring the project to life and show so many of the unique facets of our ranch through the incredible video and photo assets they created. Having a consultant help us understand and plan for the strategic rollout of our videos and photos was paramount. With NDIT’s support, we now have the tools and education to move forward with our agri-tourism business, showcasing this unique gem to our guests.”

Working with a local communications company during the project, Woodhouse Cottages and Ranch received guidance for future marketing efforts. Deliverables included a marketing and creative strategy, training on elements of marketing, social media and earned media, one long video and eight vignettes, professional photo assets, creative materials for marketing and a rollout strategy when they launched their new video and more.

“As we have begun sharing our new-found assets on various social media platforms, we have had enormous feedback from previous guests, who have then shared to others,” said Woodhouse. “The response has been incredibly strong and overwhelmingly supportive. The enormous power of social media, coupled with the talents of the teams we worked with, has helped us reach more people; locally and regionally. We have seen incredible results with people reaching out to us for reservations because of the organic campaign that was created for our initial rollout. We are very excited to see what happens when the paid portion of the plan is initiated! With the support from NDIT, we firmly believe we will achieve a stronger foundation for what lies ahead for our guest ranch and are extremely grateful.”

Funding for Woodhouse Cottages and Ranch’s project came from Northern Development’s SBR Consulting Rebate. In April 2020, Northern Development adjusted the former Forestry Affected Business Consulting Rebate to include businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The SBR Consulting Rebate helps businesses in a variety of industries access the professional support they need to weather the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic.

Both the SBR Consulting Rebate and Competitiveness Consulting Rebate programs are temporarily closed and both will begin accepting applications June 1, 2021. Learn more about the SBR Consulting Rebate and Competitiveness Consulting Rebate.

Bearnard, Northern Development’s photo ambassador, enjoys the nice weather at the Mackenzie Community Campsite.
Photo: Northern Development

Since 2019, Northern Development has approved over $28,000 for improvements to the Mackenzie Community Campsite to enhance tourism offerings in the area, support the local economy and improve safety for users.

“As people continue to stay close to home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are grateful for the opportunity to provide safe and welcoming local recreational opportunities to our residents,” said Joan Atkinson, mayor of Mackenzie. “The construction and improvements to our community campsite were made to promote tourism in Mackenzie but in today’s pandemic environment, there is little tourism traffic. In the meantime, our locals can exclusively enjoy this outdoor experience. We look forward to welcoming out-of-town guests once this pandemic is behind us. Our new community campground and the outstanding recreational opportunities in close proximity to the campground, promises to provide visitors old and young with a fabulous outdoor adventure.”

Phase Two of the Mackenzie Community Campsite Development project saw the completion of $27,633 in upgrades, including the creation of 12 new campsites, increasing the facility’s capacity for hosting guests. Each new site features gravel access, concrete picnic table pad and a picnic table. The campground also received new solar lamps and upgraded outhouses. The addition of new sites means that more people can stay overnight in the community, leading to increased revenue for local businesses from tourism.  

Less than a year after Phase Two was completed, Northern Development approved a $15,000 Economic Diversification Infrastructure grant for Phase Three. The third phase of the campsite development focuses on increased safety and user satisfaction by creating a new, 200-metre multiuse trail from the campground to Morfee Lake Public Beach, connecting accommodations to a popular attraction.

Prior to the construction of the trail, patrons had to choose between walking down a road, which can see heavy traffic, or taking a less accessible trail, which frequently has drainage issues, to access the beach. The new trail will provide a safe, direct and enjoyable route between the lake and campsite.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic altered travel habits, the tourism industry generated $22.3 billion in revenue in B.C. in 2019 and the number of tourism-related businesses in the province had increased two per cent since the previous year. Investing in new and existing tourism amenities, from campgrounds to mountain bike trails, helps grow the northern economy while improving the quality of life for residents because an enjoyable place to visit is a good place to live.

The 2021 intern cohort, with Alanna LeCerf (top, second from left) during one of their Zoom sessions.

From May 10 to 14, 12 interns participated in virtual orientation sessions, facilitated by Alanna LeCerf, internship program manager at Northern Development. The intern orientation takes place near the beginning of each internship and lays a strong foundation as the cohort transitions from post-secondary studies and into the professional world.

“So far the experience has been amazing!” wrote one intern in the anonymous post-intern orientation survey. “I feel as though the orientation has helped prepare me to start my career, and my mentor and co-workers have been so welcoming. I was searching for an opportunity where I could be introduced to my career in a less intimidating way and because of the support that I am receiving, I feel very excited rather than scared!”

The five-day orientation featured presentations from a variety of speakers, including select members of the Trust’s staff team and other government professionals in Northern B.C. Sessions included diving into how regional districts operate, presented by Melany Helmer, chief administrative officer at Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, building relationships between local and First Nations governments, co-presented by Aaron Manella, chief administrative officer at Williams Lake First Nation, and Ron Poole, chief administrative officer at Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine. Current interns also had the opportunity to hear from Lina Gasser, the current chief administrative officer at Village of Hazelton and a 2015 local government intern (read a Q&A we did with Lina in 2019). 

Other presentations focused on soft skills that interns will need during their 12-month internship, including some professional dos and don’ts, tips for successfully transitioning into their host community, an in-depth look at communications styles and best practices and suggestions for building a professional portfolio.

First Nation Government Internship Placements
Cook’s Ferry Indian Band – Jennifer Grieve
Tsay Key Dene – Moyo Ofulue
Saulteau First Nations – Gbenga Ayansola
Williams Lake First Nation – Jia Hui Zhang

Local Government Internship Placements
City of Fort St. John – Devin Croin
City of Quesnel – Purnesh Jani
District of Chetwynd – Leah Labarrere
District of Houston – Diana Reyes
District of Vanderhoof – Vincent Wickham
Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine – Walsham Tenshak
Squamish-Lillooet Regional District – Liana Stepan
Village of Fraser Lake – Kristin Levy

Since 2013, Northern Development has invested more than $3.5 million into its internship programs to help build capacity in communities throughout its service region.

“The NDIT internship is a door for me to start working as a real professional in Canada. I applied for the internship program because it is a great opportunity for me to combine my studies with working in a government organization. I am glad to have this opportunity to not only work in my field as a planner, but to gain a broad learning experience from different departments. I took the initiative to start my internship at Williams Lake First Nation Government, and I believe this is an exciting journey for both my personal and professional path.”
– Quote from post-intern orientation survey

Photos: Northern Development

Last month, Northern Development shared that we had contracted a local artist to carve four animal photo ambassadors to travel around the region with local photographers to appear in images of projects the Trust has invested in.

Over the span of four weeks, we hosted a contest on Facebook and Instagram to encourage people to submit their name suggestions for the chance to win a $100 Support Local BC gift card.

The Trust is pleased to introduce our photo ambassadors: Bearnard the Bear, Belle the Bison, Eddie the Eagle and Finn the Salmon.

Bearnard outside the Mackenzie Recreation Centre.

Bearnard has already travelled to Mackenzie to visit the Mackenzie Community Campsite, Mackenzie Recreation Centre and some business façade improvement projects. Belle is currently planning a trip to Fort St. John to visit the brand-new Fort St. John Festival Plaza and to meet the local government intern that recently joined the City of Fort St. John through Northern Development’s Local Government Internship program.

Keep your eyes on the Trust’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn channels to see where the photo ambassadors will travel to next!

Learn more about Northern Development’s Strategic Initiatives Fund from Derek Baker, director of economic development. The Zoom sessions will detail the benefits of the Strategic Initiatives Fund, types of eligible projects, what to include in your application and more. This informative time will help potential applicants prior to the July 31 grant application deadline.

This session is for all local and First Nations governments in Northern Development’s service region.

If you work for a local or First Nation government in central or northern B.C. and are interested in learning more about the Strategic Initiatives Fund, register to join a Zoom session on June 8 or June 22.

Register for June 8 session.
Register for June 22 session.

The Strategic Initiatives Fund is a proposal-based program that provides grant funding for strategic projects that are large in scale, regional in impact, enhance a community or multiple communities’ ability to overcome economic challenges and will result in incremental capacity or strategic economic infrastructure within a local government or First Nation. Approximately $1.1 million is available through the fund in 2021. Visit the Strategic Initiatives Fund program page to learn more.