October 2022 - Newsletter

In this issue

Wallace shows Northern Development staff the CNC lathe/turning centre.
All photos: Northern Development

HMI Robotics is a just-in-time, robotic-assisted manufacturing company based in Vanderhoof that designs and produces components for the aerospace, agriculture and transportation sectors. To support research and development (R&D) opportunities in Northern B.C., HMI Robotics applied for a $45,486 Northern Industries Innovation Fund rebate from Northern Development to support the purchase of a CNC lathe/turning center.

This new piece of specialized equipment will allow HMI Robotics to support businesses and industries who need technological expertise to bring their manufacturing ideas to life. It will also benefit existing businesses by allowing them to order and purchase pieces that are made in B.C., instead of having to order from an overseas parts manufacturer and wait for the piece to be shipped internationally.

“One of our greatest strengths is the ability to design and implement new processes,” said Bryan Wallace, owner, HMI Robotics. “Say you have a machine that no longer has manufacturer support. I can draw the part, get the materials, put them in the lathe and I would make the part for you.”

An unexpected benefit of the new machinery is supporting other businesses in the design and production of new equipment.

“Besides our own R&D, we have helped a number of manufacturing clients continue to meet their supply demands,” said Wallace. “HMI Robotics has helped with the redesign and manufacturing of major components on a B.C.-designed and built hay dryer. The equipment has been sold worldwide with hay dryers operating in England, Germany, Poland, South Africa, New Zealand, USA and Canada.”

The hay drying machine.

The hay dryer’s innovative design pasteurizes the hay which prevents bacteria from growing, stabilizing the nutritional values compared to other hay drying systems. After a year in storage hay samples have tested up to 20 percent higher nutritionally over conventional process. HMI Robotics manufactures some parts for the dryer that used to be outsourced. This supply switch saves thousands of dollars and creates work for the Northern B.C. business.

HMI Robotics was approved for $45,486 through Northern Development’s Northern Industries Innovation Fund. Up to $50,000 is available through this funding program to support innovative projects that increase the competitiveness of local businesses in traditional industries in the Trust’s service region.

The grand opening event at The Exploration Place.
All photos: Northern Development

After more than two years, The Exploration Place in Prince George has reopened to the public. Upon being the first museum in Canada to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Exploration Place decided to use the time to undergo its first major renovation in two decades to adapt to a changing world.

“When the lens of True Reconciliation is applied to museums it is clear that our industry is in a challenging time,” said Tracy Calogheros, CEO, The Exploration Place. “The Exploration Place has always worked hard to be mindful of our responsibilities to our community, respectful of our partners and common histories and as such, we wanted to rethink what our museum could be and what it can bring to the table for our visitors and civil society at large. This renovation has allowed us to create an immersive, beautiful space that is contemporary, safe for everyone and open to continual evolution.”

The project sought to focus on Indigenous history and reconciliation and concern for the planet with a new understanding of the risk of novel disease transmission in high-touch indoor spaces that are characteristic of museums and science centres. To assist with the renovation and adaption costs, Northern Development’s board approved a $291,605 Cultural Infrastructure grant in February 2021.

“This is an amazing place,” said Chief Dolleen Logan, Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, at the grand opening event. “We’ve had an amazing relationship with The Exploration Place, the City and Regional District [of Fraser-Fort George]. For Truth and Reconciliation, we’ve had it and the relationship is continually growing.”

Before they began their renovation project, The Exploration Place first completed a thorough expansion and adaptation plan. This exercise allowed them to develop an intentional, comprehensive business plan to guide their actions and ensure that the physical changes to their space aligns with where the organization wants to go.

To help alleviate some of the costs associated with creating a business plan while the facility was closed to the public, Northern Development provided a $10,000 Capital Investment Analysis grant.

“Northern Development Initiative Trust is the organization that put the first money into this project,” said Calogheros at the opening event. “They invested in our business case and then they backed that up with putting the money in to do the first bit of work that we were doing in here. We’re a charity. We couldn’t go too far out on a limb with funds and we were trying to piecemeal things together as funding became available. If it hadn’t been for the Northern Development Initiative Trust, I don’t think we would all be standing here right now.”

The Exploration Place’s renovation includes dramatic improvements to the atrium, enlarged space for travelling exhibits, a new commercial kitchen that serves a variety of food and drink and a revamped gift shop. Together, these improvements help make the facility a cornerstone attraction for the local tourism economy, improve quality of life for residents and creates dozens of new jobs.

David Douglas Botanical Garden’s current location at the University of Northern BC.
Photo: DDBGS via Facebook

On October 26, Northern Development’s Board of Directors approved a $300,000 Economic Infrastructure grant for the David Douglas Botanical Garden Society (DDBGS) to support the second phase of their expansion of botanical gardens to a 23-acre parcel of land on the University of Northern BC’s campus in Prince George.

“This funding approval is the final piece that we needed before beginning phase two of our expansion project,” said Linda Naess, president, DDBGS. “Prior to beginning this journey, we hosted more than 40 stakeholder sessions with various organizations and the resounding message we heard is that the community needs more economic diversification and more high-quality experiences for visitors and residents to play, relax and discover the natural wonders of Prince George.”

The garden will be maintained by DDBGS under professional horticultural standards and will be accessible to all people. Accessibility will be included in the design of the garden, including non-slip walkways, low slope ramps, resting benches, safety signage and other inclusive features.

Phase 2 includes the construction of a visitor kiosk, accessible deck, public washroom, parking lot, axial walkway, maze, landscaping and other amenities at an estimated cost of $1.2 million. The Visitor Kiosk is a donated passive house demonstration building that will feature a reception area, washrooms and deck.

Work is expected to wrap up by the end of 2023, with the third and fourth phases to follow.

Northern Development’s grant came through the Economic Infrastructure funding program. This program support projects of regional and local significance that contribute to stronger communities and economic growth. 

All photos: Northern Development

Locals by Farmhouse celebrated their restaurant grand opening at the Prince George Airport on Wednesday, October 19 with a private event serving delicious farm-to-fork food. Locals by Farmhouse is based in a newly renovated space within the airport terminal, an area that was custom designed to suit their unique food production needs. To support this new location, the Prince George Airport Authority successfully applied for a $300,000 Economic Infrastructure grant from Northern Development. 

Drawing inspiration from the unique food that is grown and produced in Northern B.C., Locals by Farmhouse has created an elevated restaurant dining experience in the airport and introduced new food service options available to passengers after they go through security.

 “Celebrating local food that is prepared by talented chefs will elevate the experience for everyone who visits the airport,” said Gordon Duke, CEO, Prince George Airport Authority. “Previously vacant space has been filled by Locals by Farmhouse, creating new jobs and increasing revenue at the airport.”

The bakery, serving grab-and-go options, is located near the entrance to security.

Locals by Farmhouse brings a diversified business model that will deliver a quality dining experience to all who visit the Prince George Airport and those who live in Prince George. They offer an opportunity to sit down in a modern restaurant to dine or grab-and-go options for those in a time crunch, improving the visitor experience for those travelling through the airport and for area residents.

“This new location at the Prince George Airport allows us to grow our business and reach more customers,” said Toni Schell, general manager, Locals by Farmhouse. “The opportunity to nourish thousands of people travelling through the airport is an incredible opportunity and we look forward to providing a taste of Prince George’s hospitality to all those we interact with while creating new jobs for local residents.”

Once Locals by Farmhouse is operating at full capacity, they expect to employ 35 full time staff between the three locations within the airport. The addition of a new, vibrant business may also help the Prince George Airport Authority attract and retain new tenants.

The Economic Infrastructure funding program was introduced in September 2020. It offers two tiers of funding that applicants can apply to: up to $300,000 for new construction and/or substantial upgrades to existing facilities or up to $100,000 for upgrades or repairs to an existing facility or amenity.

MNP is ready to support Northern B.C. businesses once again through the return of their Grow the North contest. Managers or owners of businesses in Northern B.C. can apply to the contest with proposals for their business to pivot, become more profitable, innovate, safeguard future business income and other needs.

Prizes are being offered by MNP for the top three business applicants, with the winner receiving 50 hours of professional business consulting from MNP. Consulting services include performance improvement, governance, human resources, technology and e-commerce implementations, research, forecasting, capital planning risk management and many other services designed to grow the value of a business.

MNP is currently accepting applications via their website. All applications are due by midnight on February 1, 2023. A pre-selection committee will review all submissions and identify semi-finalists. Up to six semi-finalists per region will be invited to virtually pitch their idea the week of February 13. From there, the top nine applicants will be offered support from an MNP advisor prior to delivering an in-person pitch in Prince George on March 3. The winner will be announced one week later, on March 10.