October 2021 - Newsletter

In this issue

Northern Development at a glance


of Trust Funds invested in projects since 2005


projects approved since 2005


of Trust Funds committed to projects in 2021


project applications approved in 2021

Festival Plaza before its grand opening.
Photo: Northern Development

This summer Fort St. John and area residents celebrated the grand opening of the new Festival Plaza in the northwest corner of Centennial Park. The completion of the new construction means that there is a permanent, all-season venue for hosting markets, festivals, celebrations, concerts and other events.

The concept of a festival plaza space was first introduced in 2015 through extensive community engagement on the Downtown Action Plan as a key element to activate the public realm of Fort St. John’s downtown. After thorough consultation with the public and local stakeholders, a unique and thoughtful design was decided upon.

Mayor Ackerman describes some beaded artwork that is part of the Festival Plaza.
Photo: Northern Development

“We invested a lot of time consulting with local stakeholders, event hosting groups and the public to learn what our community needed and what would fulfill our needs,” said Mayor Lori Ackerman. “As a result, First Nation communities from the region inspired many design elements, telling stories of our area’s heritage, and the plaza design has strong influences from local ecology, landforms, culture and events.”

The leaning poles with upward facing lights and four fire cauldrons encased in artistically welded sheets of metal.
Photo: City of Fort St. John

One of the plaza’s unique characteristics include eight leaning poles around the main performance oval, mimicking the placement of natural wood poles as the skeleton structure of a teepee. Half of the poles include upward-facing lights that intersect nearly 80 metres off the ground providing a lit impression of teepee poles converging high in the sky that can be seen from afar.

The 7,000 square-foot structure with flexible space.
Photo: Northern Development

The 7,000 square-foot structure with a perimeter door system, electrical outlets and artistic lighting is crucial to hosting events in all weather. Large, roll-up doors can be opened to enhance the flow between inside and outside. With the doors closed, the building can accommodate 300 people during a variety of activities, including markets, performances, social events and exercise classes.

Outside, there are four large gas-fueled fire cauldrons enclosed in a steel structure decorated with art reflecting the region. These fires provide warmth during cool times and add to the lively atmosphere of the plaza.

Live music during opening celebrations.
Photo: Northern Development

Northern Development supported this $3 million project with a $50,000 grant through the former Community Halls and Recreation Facilities program. Now, the project would be eligible for a grant through the Community Places funding program.

The PG Driving For Life staff team and their training vehicles.
All photos: PG Driving For Life

In June 2021, Prince George Driving For Life Academy Ltd. (PG Driving For Life) completed a 12-month project that included the production of 49 video modules, development and pricing of six courses and three bundles, a new online training website and brand adjustment. Northern Development helped PG Driving For Life shift gears and get the project rolling with a $25,000 rebate through its Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate program.

 This project was necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw ICBC halt driver testing and forced PG Driving For Life to close and lay off employees as they were entering the busiest time of the year and booking into June 2020. Prior to the pandemic, the driving school delivered both in-class and in-car instruction to students.

Christopher Schulz, CEO, PG Driving For Life.

“This funding allowed us to pivot our business while we were not earning any revenue due to the pandemic,” said Christopher Schulz, chief executive officer, PG Driving For Life. “In-person instruction was the basis of our business and with physical distancing restrictions, we were no longer able to do that. Now, we have an e-learning platform that is easily adaptable and allows us to educate students in a new way. It gives us the flexibility to continue to grow our course topics and better serve the specific needs of our varied customer-base while creating a sustainable, passive revenue model.”

Beyond expanding their offerings, the creation of the online driver training platform will allow PG Driving For Life to grow by serving customers throughout Northern B.C. and beyond without physical expansion, especially in communities that do not have a licensed graduated licensing program provider.

The Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate program supports projects that focus on ways to sustain businesses during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A rebate of up to 85 per cent, to a maximum of $25,000, is available to small and medium sized businesses to help recover the costs of hiring a consultant to assist with business efforts.

The staff team with two members from Xatśūll Heritage Village.
All photos: Northern Development

On October 7 and 8, the Northern Development team spent time in the Cariboo for its staff retreat. The two days were filled with meeting representatives from organizations in Williams Lake and Quesnel, touring facilities and spending time together as a team after more than a year of hybrid working from home or office.

Overlooking Xatśūll Heritage Village and the Fraser River.

The retreat began with the team enjoying lunch prepared by community members at Xatśūll Heritage Village. From there, some staff members participated in a beading activity with a Xatśūll First Nation elder while others enjoyed a site tour of the pit house, sweat lodge area and fishing section on the Fraser River.

Kenneth Phillips, lead tour guide trainee, shares information about the pit house that was constructed at the site in advance of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

From Xatśūll Heritage Village, the staff went to meet with Chief Willie Sellars and Aaron Mannella, chief administrative officer, from Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN). Chief Sellars led a tour of WLFN’s new administration building while sharing information about the nation, their recent accomplishments and their goals for the future.

Staff admire a driftwood sculpture near the entrance to WLFN administration building.

From there, Northern Development staff, Chief Sellars and Mannella boarded a WLFN bus to visit St. Joseph’s Mission, the site of a former residential school, WLFN’s cannabis cultivation facility and Unity Cannabis, a cannabis store operated by the Nation.

In 2019, WLFN received a $250,000 Economic Diversification Infrastructure grant from Northern Development for construction of the cannabis cultivation facility (read about the project here).

The following day, the team visited Quesnel for lunch and a tour of the Hosting Precinct, led by Lindsay Blair, grant writer, City of Quesnel. Blair led the group through the West Fraser Centre, curling arena, Quesnel Visitor Centre and Quesnel Museum. Northern Development has invested in all these facilities through its grant programs, supporting the City of Quesnel’s economic development transition strategy.

Staff expressed happiness for the opportunity to travel once again with their service region and gratefulness for all the people who welcomed them and took time to show them around.

The first stop for the public consultation sessions was outside the Jack O’Clubs General Store in Wells.
All photos: Northern Development

Northern Development staff travelled more than 4,000 kilometres in the first two weeks of October to talk with people in 30 communities about their transportation needs. The information gathered from these in-person sessions, along with survey responses from local government, First Nations government and passenger transportation service providers, will influence the development of a northern community shuttle grant program.

Funding for this new, three-year, transportation grant program is from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) and will be administered by the Trust. The funding program, known as the Northern Passenger Transportation Service, will provide funding for safe, reliable and affordable passenger transportation services for rural and remote communities in central and northern B.C.

Set up at The Whistlestop Gallery in McBride.

The focus for these consultation sessions was to learn about passenger transportation needs within communities or between communities less than 300 kilometres apart. Public transportation may be used to attend medical appointments, access services, shopping, social events, education or employment. In 2022, more consultation and research will be done to determine needs for travelling distances of 300 kilometres or greater.

Learn more about the Northern Passenger Transportation Service by visiting the funding program page.

Granisle was the final community where Northern Development conducted in-person community consultation in 2021.

Plaid Friday is November 26! Start your holiday shopping this year with unique gifts, great deals and awesome local, independently-owned businesses! Get out your best plaid and enjoy a relaxing alternative to “Black Friday” by spending some time (and dollars) at your favourite local businesses.

Every year, Love Northern BC celebrates Plaid Friday. This campaign is designed to support local independent business owners through a variety of Plaid Friday celebrations. To keep everyone safe and healthy, our community champions will not be able to hold the same tradeshows and other public events that draw large groups. Keep an eye out for virtual Plaid Friday celebrations, contests and more in your community.