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& DEVELOPMENT

SPRING 2019 Low unemployment with high demand for specialized staff and qualified trades people are just two of the reasons Prince George is seeing so much exciting growth and development.

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Local Business Thinks Prince George is Nailing It

Business is building in Prince George – both momentum and structures.

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International Business is eyeing Prince George

Prince George is looking good to outsiders looking for a place to set up business.

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Paving and Pounding on public projects

Building projects into high gear as soon as the frost is out of the ground


Growth & DEVELOPMENT

GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT • SPRING 2019

Message from the Mayor Local business thinks Prince George is nailing it

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Business is building in Prince George – both momentum and structures

PG’s place in the big picture When planning for this region’s future, the essential lens must be focused on the natural resources sector

Higher economy from higher education Mitacs moves the needle for local business

International business is eyeing PG Prince George is looking good to outsiders looking for a place to set up business

PG’s economy talking Aboriginal reconciliation

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A growing and developing community is about far more than population. If that were the case, The Citizen couldn’t make much of a case for publishing a magazine called Growth & Development because Prince George’s population is only growing slowly compared to places like Kelowna or Metro Vancouver. Prince George has seen significant growth and development, however, as both longtime residents and former residents returning for a visit after a lengthy absence know and can see for themselves. The development isn’t just happening in the downtown, it’s happening in every neighbourhood, right across the city. It’s happening in both commercial and residential real estate. It’s happening in both the public and private sectors. As Northern B.C.’s regional hub, Prince George is on the move in every way, revealing its strength as a modern Canadian city with a diverse economy and workforce to match. As your community newspaper since 1916, we’re proud to share that story with you.

The People Behind The Product The Prince George Citizen delivers to the local economy by proudly employing over 250 staff and contractors

Most natural resource industries happen out on the landscape. Almost all of that land is under the jurisdiction of a First Nation

High-quality housing options in the downtown core

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The Park House development, located beside City Hall and Connaught Hill Park, complements the renewed energy of downtown

Drilling into the northern B.C. numbers Data is lacking on the state of the northern B.C. economy

Record-setting construction year Those who swing hammers, set steel, pour concrete, string cable and wire, connect pipe and all the other elements of construction had their tool belts full this past year

A royal brotherhood: Prince Rupert linked to Prince George

Colleen Sparrow Publisher

The City of Prince George, just like the private sector, gets building projects into high gear as soon as the frost is out of the ground

Green light for glittering gold An area gold mine proposal just got the go-ahead from the federal government

Nailing down Prince George’s future A lot of local hammers are pounding out the rhythm of redevelopment

Shawn Cornell

Lisa Giesinger

Editor

Advertising Director

Business Manager

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Dana Young Advertising Consultant

250-552-1540

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Not since the Cariboo Road was put through to the 19th century goldfields has a place so far away had such an economic effect on our own area

Paving and pounding on public projects

Neil Godbout

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Aaron Baumbach

Anne Kiteley

Deanne Cornell

Advertising Consultant

Advertising Consultant

Advertising Consultant

250-981-6131

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Growth & DEVELOPMENT

Message from the Mayor Prince George is undergoing a multi-year period of civic and private sector development unlike anything it has seen in decades. Construction is happening all over our city. There were more than 500 building permits issued in 2018 and the value of those permits shattered the previous record (from more than a decade ago) by 26 per cent - and they are up again in 2019. The private sector is driving the majority of the investments we are seeing in our community. It’s evident that the economy is growing which shows investor confidence. As it has been in the past, the resource and transportation sector is behind much of the growth and the optimism; this is encouraging more jobs and greater opportunity in Prince George. According to a recent survey of local businesses, 87 per cent of businesses said that they think Prince George is a good or excellent place to do business, which is a strong endorsement for the local business climate. With our excellent connectivity by road, rail, air and our proximity to the Port of Prince Rupert and Port of Vancouver, Prince George is a prime location for manufacturing facilities with the potential to export their goods out of province or country. Now is the ideal time for new businesses to set up in the Hub city as this growth is forecast to continue for years to come. There is an abundance of land available at competitive prices and an available skilled workforce. The city provides an affordable cost of living and makes employee attraction and retention attainable as a result of our high quality of life. As our community grows, changes, and develops, the City is investing in services and infrastructure. A new condo project is being built, the first of its kind in the downtown. When complete, the development will provide more than 150 housing units. Along with this we are seeing unprecedented commercial development, single family and multi family housing starts throughout the city. In order for residents to take advantage of local jobs in natural resources, hospitals, schools, businesses, and government sectors it is critical that our community prepare people for these opportunities. Prince George has thriving post-secondary institutions; CNC and UNBC provide

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educational opportunities for thousands of local and regional students while also attracting faculty and students from around the world. They’re attending great institutions: UNBC, for example, is the only small university in Canada to be ranked top three by Maclean’s every year for the last decade. Even better, the majority of graduates from our college and university stay in our region. They work here, live here, and make our communities better. Our two post secondary educational institutions along with School District 57 are integral in our city’s ongoing development. These are all attributes that strengthen our city as a whole and provide jobs to local residents. Making our community as good as it can be, and simply a place that people want to call home, is the best thing we can do for the future of our residents. Prince George is an exciting and vibrant community. Lyn Hall, Mayor of Prince George


Growth & DEVELOPMENT

Local Business Thinks Prince George is Nailing It FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff Business is building in Prince George – not only momentum but actual structures. Terri McConnachie, executive officer for the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, described this year’s construction season as “hair straight back” for the region’s builders, designers and tradespeople. While the CHBA is a regional organization with a view to the whole area, Melissa Barcellos, the economic development manager for the City of Prince George, said inside city boundaries it was another stellar year. Records for building permits were set in 2018 and, according to 2019’s first quarter (Q1) stats, this year is already even hotter.

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“That’s a trend we’ve been seeing month over month,” Barcellos said. “We keep looking to see if it’s a new record, so that’s really exciting, and the majority of that is private sector investment, which again just goes to demonstrate the confidence that local businesses have in Prince George and it’s one of the key indicators we look at when we’re evaluating the local economy.” That business confidence has some real nails and bolts to it. In the recently released Business Insights Report that polls local entrepreneurs on the condition of their businesses, 87 per cent of them named Prince George either good or excellent as a place to do business. There were underlying reasons, said Barcellos, not just feelings. Those reasons are about to set off a domino effect of new construction and renovation. “One of the highlights was that more than two-thirds of companies were anticipating their sales would increase over the

Construction at the O’Grady Heights Apartment by Broadstreet Properties. The new apartments are located on Stringer Crescent and O’Grady Avenue. Citizen photo by Brent Braaten

next year,” she explained. “Seventy-six per cent said the market for their service or product was increasing. “This was a highlight to me: one third of the businesses we spoke to are planning to expand in the next three years. All of those companies said they would be expanding in Prince George and most said their current site was not adequate for expansion, so looking forward, that shows that there will be some movement in commercial or industrial real estate, warehousing, over the next three years. That, again, will spur further development.” Inland Kenworth is the poster-business for this upscaling. General manager Rick Bruneski said that their previous location was bursting at the seams, so they built a showcase headquarters building near the Boundary Road connector on Highway 97 South. It is more than 100,000 square feet under one roof, less than two years old, yet, he said, “what’s really amazing is we have already outgrown our equipment department, which is a testament to how much machinery we’ve sold.” A very busy and more diversified forest industry is the bulk of Inland Kenworth’s activity, he said, but there were also positive signs from general construction, mining, agriculture and pipelining sectors. “One of the challenges in Prince George is, there isn’t a lot of warehouse space available,” said Barcellos. “There is, absolutely, an adequate amount of available land, affordable land, on which warehousing could be built, so that’s what leads me to believe there could be an increase in construction. Definitely one of our pitches to investors is the affordable land.” Not every statistics line is on an upward trajectory. Housing sales are slightly down this year over last, as are the number of new home construction projects, but both are still healthy. The biggest challenge facing businesses, according to the new report, is labour. With a bubble of employees and partner professionals all retiring, entrepreneurs

have to innovate their human resources tactics to attract and retain the people they need. That is a nationwide reality, and Barcellos said Prince George held some strong cards local entrepreneurs could play. “Business owners are going to have to be creative in promoting the quality of life available in Prince George, demonstrating why their company is an employer of choice, so they can retain their existing employees. Because with all of the development in northern B.C., there’s a lot of opportunities for jobs, but it also comes at a price in terms of lifestyle. A worker might be living in camp, or might be travelling a lot for work when you’d rather be established at home with your family, so for Prince George that’s a big selling factor I think businesses need to focus on because not everyone (business owner) can just jack up their wages to try to compete just simply through dollar figures.” Another sign of overall confidence in the local economy is the number of people striking out into their own venture. Prince George’s Q1 had 113 applications for new business licenses.

Construction Numbers (According to municipal permits) Commercial

Q1 in 2018 $6.6-million Q1 in 2019 $3.7-million

Industrial

Q1 in 2018 $34,000 Q1 in 2019 $195,000

Institutional

Q1 in 2018 $151,000 Q1 in 2019 $50,000

Residential

Q1 in 2018 $18-million Q1 in 2019 $23-million


Growth & DEVELOPMENT

PG’s Place In the Big Picture FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff When planning for this region’s future, the essential lens must be focused on the natural resources sector. Be it mining, agriculture, oil, natural gas, or the various products from the forest, this city’s fortunes rise and fall on the commodities index. In a conversation on the Natural Resources Forum stage, three leading figures in community finances all cautiously celebrated Prince George’s current position but as is always the case in global economics, there is never clear sailing. The three took turns applauding this region’s success at diversifying its economy and getting a smarter handle on controllable topics like infrastructure and development capacity, but itemized an extensive list of things still on the to-do list. “While we’ve had a great year, this past year, we are not going back to an economy that’s growing in the sort of pre-2008 sense,” said Dan Muzyka, who was recently the president and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada, the past-chair of the Natural Sciences & Engineering

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Research Council, and currently a professor with UBC’s Sauder School of Business. “The resource economy in the world is more subdued, our consumers are frankly tapped out, debt has climbed, we’re in a situation where we’re going to be growing at two per cent. Two per cent isn’t great. Consumer spending is slowing down. People say, maybe the government could put more in. But governments provincially and federally are running deficits. There isn’t a lot more capacity there to bump it up. It is dependent upon business to really move things forward.” It is in that latter niche that the Prince George region could play a strong hand. “We are in challenging times but we do see slow growth up ahead. It’s all about what the people in this room and a lot of other rooms across Canada decide to do,” he said, speaking directly to the owners and managers of resource-affiliated businesses. “Are we going to invest? Are we going to innovate? Growth is going to be predicated on exports. One of the things I’m noticing is we are losing market share in other parts of the world. We’re not keeping up our export growth potential. So we need to look at every opportunity, whether it’s resources, products, services - we need to create more investment and


Growth & DEVELOPMENT look for more opportunity.” Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC, agreed that companies and communities had to take matters into their own hands, because the various levels of higher government were currently letting the natural resource agenda shrivel. He blamed too much red tape, too much timeline uncertainty, and too little policy response to changing international realities. “What can we produce that the world wants to buy at a price we can afford to sell it? That’s really what we’re looking at when we talk about comparative advantages,” Finlayson said. “For Canada, resources are the bulk of the industries in which we have the very clear international comparative advantage: oil, gas, lumber, pulp, paper, metal, coal, fertilizer, some chemical products, etc. This is a very

Our reputation in global markets is this is a place where you can’t get anything done, costs are too high, too much uncertainty. – Joel McKay, CEO of Northern Development Initiative Trust

important point. It shows where Canada sits in the global competitive landscape, but it’s something our policy makers sometimes have trouble grasping. Natural resource goods make up more than half of the value of Canada’s merchandise exports, and autos are another fifth, so resources and autos together are 70 per cent of the value of Canada’s exports.” Governments must be lobbied and lobbied hard to keep their eye on the natural resources ball, said Finlayson. “We need regulation. We need high standards. We all want that, in corporate Canada, but our systems and processes are not working well. Some would say they are broken. Our reputation in global markets is this is a place where you can’t get anything done, costs are too high, too much uncertainty. We need to break through that log jam.” Joel McKay, CEO of Northern Development Initiative Trust, said pending those actions and/or inactions by higher levels of government, the local levels of government and business– individually and as part of associations and chambers of commerce and the like – had to act with as much self-preservation as was within their control. “It really is about investment readiness,” he said. “If our economy in the north

continues to be reliant on export industries, extractive industries, our communities need to be ready to take advantage of the next thing that’s coming along. That means we need to make sure our infrastructure is in place, that investors know who they can talk to, that when they come into a community, that community is knowledgeable about the regulatory regime, the land that’s available, the infrastructure that’s available, that the zoning is squared away, and there needs to be a lock-step there between local government, regional districts, the provincial government, the federal government where that applies, and First Nations that will be involved. It is absolutely crucial in northern B.C. that First Nations are a huge component of that process. Where we have seen success is where communities were ready to go when the opportunity came along.” Grassroots players in the economy – town councils and project proponents talking together – need to do their homework, not just reach for a dream, said Muzyka. “The real roots to any positive development is making sure there’s a real, hardened business case,” he stressed. When the resource is depleted, or the enabling subsidies run out, or there is a downturn in a global market force, “what is your exit path? Be clear about your exit path.” Finlayson said that governments have show an over-propensity to support emergent industries that don’t employ enough people to warrant the resources they are getting. “By all means, let’s grow some of these new industries, but let’s not lose sight of how the bills are actually being paid,” he said. Those core industries that generate much of the nation’s gainful employment and foreign income are the industries to which Prince George is most connected. “There are a few reasons why our resource industries have large economic multipliers,” said Finlayson. “One is, they export most of what they produce out of B.C., generating income that flows back to the province and augments our economy. “Secondly, there are high productivity measures: output per hour work. “Third, they pay high wages like a lot of high-productivity industries tend to do. “Fourth, most of the inputs used by our forest companies, our mining companies, our natural gas producers, by our agrifood sector are actually sourced right here in British Columbia. Those inputs include labour, transportation, raw materials, energy, and services that are procured by natural resources firms. “And finally, they do remain critically important to the corporate economy of Vancouver and to our overall corporate sector. “We should be paying more attention to the industries that are paying the bills today, that are actually generating the export earnings that allow our governments in Canada to fund services, that are supplying hundreds of thousands of so-called middle-class jobs. Let’s focus attention on what we’re actually good at doing.” Prince George Citizen | MAY 2019

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Growth & DEVELOPMENT

Higher Economy From Higher Education Mitacs Moves The Needle For Local Business FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff One of Prince George’s richest secondary industries is academia, which in turn helps the region’s primary industries like forestry and mining. Bridging those industries is Mitacs, one of many funding and academic stimulation agencies operating in Canada, but with particular case studies in the local area to show the growing interconnections between business and post-secondary studies. During this year’s True North Business Development Forum organized by the Prince George and BC Chamber of Commerce, Mitacs director of business development Jennifer Tedman Jones explained how their agency put businesses with key questions about their future in touch with quality interns who could get them closer to the answers, and Mitacs would help pay for it. “Canfor Pulp worked with Lisa Wood and Kathy Lewis to look at how climate

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change could potentially affect wood quality,” Tedman Jones said. “They recruited a Masters student, Anastasia, and her results are actually that there is an impact. Through gradual changes they can already see how this is going to affect their operations. So her results are actually directly informing how Canfor Pulp manages their wood supply.” It has worked out so well that Canfor has continued with a follow-up project to look at climate change’s effects on subalpine fir. They have recruited a Ph.D student to look at this. These research opportunities lead to valuable information for the companies who commission the research, but also to employment for the students, directly or indirectly. “Since 2003, Mitacs has had 20,000 research internships,” said Tedman Jones. “We’ve done longitudinal studies to be able to understand the impact of this program. Is it having the impact we’re hoping it does? A third of the companies have hired at least one intern, which is not entirely surprising for an internshipbased program, but what’s interesting to us is that a quarter of those positions

University of Northern British Columbia NRES Masters student, Tim Burkhart with Prof. Pamela Wright. Burkhart’s research with UNBC eventually helped land him his dream job with an environmental consulting firm. Photo courTesY of the University of Northern British Columbia

didn’t exist in the company before. So it has opened up entirely new ways of doing things, and vice versa. For the students, who may have been on an academic path, they have been opened to a completely different perspective and that has affected their career choice. Even the students who go on further with academia have broadened their perspective and they are moving forward with that additional knowledge and experience.” A case in point Tedman Jones discussed

was when an environmental consulting firm and a not-for-profit partnered with UNBC professors who assigned Masters student Tim Burkhart “to create a platform that would allow decision support in land-use planning. They were so impressed with Tim’s work that they actually made him an offer, so he credits this exposure with landing his dream job.” Mitacs is only one funding agency helping to boost the area’s academic interface with business and industry.


Growth & DEVELOPMENT

International Business is Eyeing PG FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff Prince George is looking good to outsiders looking for a place to set up business. “There is one thing (inside the year’s municipal economic indicators) that’s really interesting that I haven’t really talked about yet,” said City of Prince George’s manager of economic development Melissa Barcellos. “This city was approved to participate in the province’s Provincial Nominee Program’s (PNP) entrepreneurship immigration pilot project for rural communities. We just launched that program.” It’s a mouthful of a title, but it fits Prince George’s development profile like a frame around a picture and it is already showing significant response. Immigrants from anywhere in the world can apply through the PNP to immigrate to Canada if they set up a business. This sector of the program is for communities smaller than 75,000 population. Prince George qualifies. “Since we initiated that program about a month ago, we’ve had around 75 inquiries, which is not normal for investment inquiries. In two months we’ll have gotten

more than we typically get It is an opportunity for us in an entire year. We don’t to promote Prince George know that they’re going globally as a location for to locate here, cargo distribution companies. they are just interested. – Melissa Barcellos, City of Prince George There are Manager of Economic Development a bunch of requirements they have to go through, it is regulated by the province, but it has seen a lot of interest already. “Another of the requirements is, they have to do a visit to Prince George which would spur economic development in terms of tourism. They would meet with our staff, so that we can educate them on Prince George and the opportunities here.” Further stipulations for these prospective new Canadians is their business must have a storefront, it must have at least one employee working under the proprietor, and many more. “And it is seeing major interest right off the get-go.” This city also qualified for the federal government’s Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) program under which specific lands are designated for businesses involved in im-

port-export activity. “So,” said Barcellos, “if a business locates there, they can qualify for federal tax exemptions, a tax deferral program, a variety of incentives, and really helps

streamline their paperwork and their cash flow in order to bring goods into Canada from other countries and then send goods back out of Canada.” With the city’s network of highways, rail systems, and well outfitted airport all tailored for international trade, this is the kind of hub city that stands out to companies moving goods. “It is an opportunity for us to promote Prince George globally as a location for cargo distribution companies. Transportation networks is one of our biggest assets in that regard.”

Prince George Citizen | MAY 2019

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Growth & DEVELOPMENT

PG’s Economy Talking Aboriginal Reconciliation British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee and Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, at an announcement on advancing First Nations’ economic development. Citizen photo by Brent Braaten

FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff The majority of northern B.C’s economic activity comes from natural resource industries.

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Most natural resource industries happen out on the landscape. Almost all of that land is the under the jurisdiction of a First Nation. When the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on the William Case, a northern British

Columbia dispute over logging, the effect was profound. It gave Aboriginal peoples across Canada a much higher level of recognition in land-use issues. While some industrialists worried this would cause projects to be blocked, and in some cases this influence was exerted, it has so far seen largely an opposite effect. Logging operations, mine proposals, pipelines and the like are getting the go-ahead in ways that are spinning off into extra economic benefits for communities across the north. “It’s such a myth that First Nations aren’t interested in industrial development,” said Nadleh Whut’en First Nation chief Larry Nooski, who is readying his nation’s lands near Fraser Lake for a second full-scale industrial camp in the past few years, plus exploring a proposal for a gin distillery to be located there. BC Assembly of First Nations regional chief Terry Teegee is a member of the Takla First Nation, also in the Prince George region, and is a Registered Professional Forester by trade. In his provincial role, he is spearheading a set of initiatives under the title of Sustainable Economic Development Strategy in partnership with the provincial government. After three years of operation, that program was just renewed for another two years at a signing ceremony in Prince George. The initiative will, among other things, soon deliver a tool kit called Black Books to First Nations so they can be more ready to participate in business proposals for their territories. “Our economies are vastly different than they were 10 years ago. How is it going to change? How do we get prepared for that?,” Teegee said, and celebrated the way these projects now require Indigenous partnership but that turns into benefits for all

neighbouring communities, “Because we can’t fill the whole project (with Aboriginal people only). We can’t fool ourselves that everybody can be an engineer, a miner, or whatnot. We’re not going to fill all those spaces. Who’s going to do it? More often than not it’s (mainstream society).” The AFN strategy also worked with the BC Business Council to create a provincial Champions’ Table at which sit 11 First Nations Leaders and 11 business leaders, who openly discuss the ways to achieve everyone’s goals in business. “A lot of the issues we’re seeing are rural, northern issues. The vast majority of these initiatives are extractive, so how is it our First Nations will deal with these industries? That’s really what we’re listening to,” said Teegee, describing how the strategy was operating. “We certainly know, when we have First Nations hold tenures, when First Nations have more jurisdiction, when First Nations are part of the project, municipalities also benefit. There is more predictability and certainty.” “This strategy is building a foundation of positive and lasting change, and helping First Nations become full partners in building and strengthening B.C.’s economy,” said Minister of Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation Scott Fraser. “Working together we will improve economic opportunities for all British Columbians.” If the region’s First Nations succeed, Fraser said, then it ups the game for everyone in that area, and that extends to the entire province. “I give credit to a lot of B.C. companies,” he said. “They are often taking a lead on reconciliation and building relationships before trying to build anything in a territory. It’s key. Developing those relationships and partnerships, sharing of wealth, it gets us out of an old way that provided no equity, with communities living in poverty while the land around them got stripped. For moral reasons, that was wrong on every level but also, poverty is not good for the province.” One of those businesses with a leader at the Champions’ Roundtable is EDI-Environmental Dynamics Inc. and CEO Bob Redden. He said he has personally seen the change happening in B.C.’s dealings between First Nations and big business, thanks to the frank conversations at that table. “There is a lot of discussion and understanding, and that’s the key to breaking down barriers to opportunity,” Redden said. “We can really let our guard down and get serious about understanding the issues and the barriers. There are decisionmakers in the room being a part of that. I feel it’s very balanced because it’s just a straight conversation.” When major projects like LNG Canada’s liquefied natural gas system and New Gold Inc’s Blackwater gold mine are progressing amicably towards fruition where others have slammed into First Nations acrimony, it is easy to see the possibilities for the success when all parties find common ground before any shovels cut the ground.


Growth & DEVELOPMENT

High-quality housing options in the downtown core SUBMITTED ARTICLE Kamloops based A&T Project Developments Inc. is a construction and development company that has been working in the Prince George region for the last several years. They first started working in this area when they developed the Riverbend Seniors Community that many Prince George seniors now call home. A&T is currently working on multiple developments across the province including Echo Landing and Elevation in Sun Peaks and the Park House Condominium project in downtown Prince George. The Park House development, located beside City Hall and Connaught Hill Park, complements the renewed energy of downtown. Our city centre is now host to some of the best restaurants, pubs and eateries in PG, has an active arts and music scene, civic and cultural facilities as well as a year-round farmers market. With the new pool and new hotels under

Artistic Representation Only

Rendering of Phase 1 Park House once Complete.

development, new downtown student housing recently announced, as well as a growing number of gatherings, festivals and events, people have rediscovered what downtown has to offer. Park House will offer what many in PG have asked for -- new high-quality housing options to be able to also call downtown home. This downtown condominium development by A&T will compliment an active and healthy lifestyle by giving residents

Artist Rendering submitted.

easy walking access to work and social activities, as well as shared amenities within the development like a residentsonly gym, sauna and steam room, community gardens and an outdoor fire pit. Framing of the first phase of Park House has just began and Prince George residents will begin to see this one- and two-bedroom condominium building take shape over the coming months. Over their many years in the construc-

tion and development industry, A&T Project Developments has garnered a reputation for completing every project they break ground on. As they continue to work in Prince George, residents are seeing A&T’s quality of work and their commitment to their values firsthand. The Park House project is the latest endeavour in Prince George from A&T and it is sure to compliment the re-energized downtown.

Prince George Citizen | MAY 2019

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Growth & DEVELOPMENT

Drilling Into the Northern BC Numbers FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff

Its (Prince George’s) economy has largely shifted over the last 15 to 20 years from what we would traditionally call a mill town to where the top employment sectors are now healthcare and education. – Joel McKay, CEO of the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

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MAY 2019 | Prince George Citizen

Data is lacking on the state of the northern B.C. economy, said Joel McKay, CEO of the Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT), the largest contributor of public sector funds to the region’s economy short of government itself. NDIT set forth to sluice out more data than was previously evident, to tell the story of this region’s economy. They put it into a 2017 report entitled The State Of The North (now updated annually) as a deeper look into the northern numbers beneath the provincial and federal ones. The examination was extensive, examining the north by economic region and also examining the economy sector by sector. While each region had its own ups and downs to contend with, said McKay, expounding on what the report found, Prince George was an economic region unto itself. A 2014 downturn in commodity prices put a cooling effect on the employment numbers, housing demand and other key indicators, but overall, those problems were stabilized and in fact rebounds were being seen in some areas, but not all. “Prince George bucks the trend (with stronger economic indicators earlier in the recovery process) which has to do with this being the largest municipality in northern B.C.” McKay said “Its economy has largely shifted over the last 15 to 20 years from what we would traditionally call a mill town to where the top employment sectors are now healthcare and education. It’s actually insulated from the impacts we’ve seen in smaller communities around the region.” What was clear in the numbers, and it might be surprising to some, he said, was how forestry still leads the way and how natural resources are vastly the muscle and bone of northern B.C.’s economic fortunes, despite some gains made in sectors like tourism, high-tech, and service professions. One of the strongest indicators was the Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey that showed B.C.’s overall percentage for jobs produced by the service sector versus the production of goods was a ratio of 80-20 but in northern B.C. it was a 70-30 ratio. This area has a much larger percentage of employment directly tied to goods: lumber, minerals, coal, natural gas, petroleum, etc.

“Largely, importantly, our employment in this region remains reliant on the goods-producing sector to a much greater degree than the provincial average,” McKay said. “It is important to continue to invest in these industries so they aren’t just competitive but that we are innovating. What do we mean by that? To me it means we are doing things here that aren’t being done anywhere else. Whether that’s best practices, or new technology development, and those things become the envy of that sector, allowing us to not just extract resources at a lower cost, have better operational efficiency, better profitability in our companies, and get those products offshore, but also to export our knowledge and expertise, to export services.” Just like Prince George has acquired other sources of income, incomes based on intellectual property and specialized services, the broader region would be best served by investing in next-level sales opportunities for natural resource industries, McKay advised. The forest industry is doing this by using the waste from the milling process to make energy pellets. The pulp industry is doing this by using the heat involved in their cooking processes to generate electricity. The more value-added components a region can add to the things it is already doing well – in this area’s case that is the palette of natural resources – then the easier it is to withstand the ups and downs of international trade forces that we here cannot control. “A regional economy exists at the behest of global forces,” McKay said. “Trade agreements, policy shifts, and changes in demand in nations far from here traditionally dictate the health of our goods-producing sectors, thus it affects the traffic on our streets, demand for housing, the amount of people eating in our restaurants.” Past data showed McKay that even when national and provincial policy is aggressive on pushing trade, the real results on the ground are dictated by global market conditions. Those can be watched and adjusted for, in the northern BC context. He said, “We’d better have our house in order all the way through the supply chain in order to capitalize on that.” Part of getting the house in order, in McKay’s sphere of influence, is doing more data collection and mining for statistical information that will let local leaders and entrepreneurs make more informed decisions.


Growth & DEVELOPMENT

Record-Setting Construction Year

Crews pouring concrete as part of the construction of the parkade, which is part of the condo development project across from City Hall. Citizen photo by Brent Braaten

FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff With files by Mark Nielsen and Christine Hinzmann

Those who swing hammers, set steel, pour concrete, string cable and wire, connect pipe and all the other elements of construction had their tool belts full this past year. Permits for a record-setting $186.4 million worth or work were taken out during 2018, according to year-end numbers from Prince George City Hall. The total surpasses the previous mark of $147.9 million reached in 2007 by nearly $40 million or 26 per cent. That mark was actually surpassed in the fall. At $156.5 million, private sector investment accounts for 84 per cent. That also surpasses the previous record of $121.6 million, set in 2016, by nearly $35 million or 29 per cent. Residential construction also set a new record at $114.4 million, breaking the previous record of $76.4 million in 2017 by about $38 million, a 50 per cent increase. In total, the city issued 438 residential building permits, which include permits for renovations and new construction. In total, the number of building permits issued rose from in 455 in 2016 to 515 in 2018 and the number of new multi-family permits rose from one in 2016 to 33 in 2018. “Traditionally, the value of building permits is an important measure of economic progress,” the city said in a press release. “A high number indicates an increase in construction activity and related employment, as well as other direct and indirect economic benefits.” The top 10 projects for 2018 in terms of building permit value are as follows (figures are rounded up to the nearest $100,000): - New construction of Kelly Road Sec-

ondary School: $28.3 million; - Parkade next to city hall: $12.9 million; - Apartment building in College Heights (Building B): $6.7 million; - Apartment building in College Heights (Building A): $5.9 million; - Renovation at UHNBC: $5.2 million; - Federated Co-Operatives Ltd. New Bulk Plant (BCR Industrial Park): $3.5 million; - Addition to show lounge at Treasure Cove Casino: $3 million; - New multi-family development (3rd Ave): $2.6 million; - New multi-family development (Vanier Drive): $1.6 million; - New single-family dwelling (West): $1.6 million. “This is an all-time record for the city and a large piece of the development over the last four years, which will likely exceed $600 million and is really driven by the private sector and that’s pretty important for us because it shows a lot of confidence in the economy here,” said Prince George mayor Lyn Hall. Hall said even though the city didn’t have anything to do with the latest School District 57 project, the construction of the new Kelly Road Secondary School, it is still really big for the city. The mayor’s office at city hall overlooks the construction site for the new condominium complex, giving Hall a bird’s-eye view of a project he hopes transform downtown. “Changing the face of downtown – we haven’t seen any development like this for decades,” Hall said. “The Park House condo development is something that I really think will be the driving force behind more commercial and retail development downtown. We need people to live downtown. There’s lots happening on the other side of Victoria Street but when you get on the downtown side, we needed residential living downtown to create a community and that’s what Park House development will do.” Prince George Citizen | MAY 2019

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Growth & DEVELOPMENT

A Royal Brotherhood

The companies that move international trade through this region directly employ in excess of 3,000 people in high-wage jobs, a large portion of which are Indigenous.

Prince Rupert Linked to Prince George

– Ken Veldman, vice-president of public affairs and sustainability, Port of Prince Rupert

FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff Not since the Cariboo Road was put through to the 19th century goldfields has a place so far away had such an economic effect on our own area. In the modern context it is the Port of Prince Rupert (PoPR) that represents that road to riches. The sea terminals in Prince Rupert await at the end of the road and rail links that connect Prince George to the Pacific Rim. It is almost the same distance from here to there as it is from here to Vancouver down that same Cariboo Highway of old, but it is 24-48 fewer hours on the ocean for freighters travelling to Asia, which reduces the cost of fuel, crew, vessel wear and risk. Shipping companies love those savings, and are using the PoPR as a preferred gateway to and from Asian markets. The financial report for the PoPR detailed the growth in port-wide volume to a record 24 million tonnes of goods, coming out of the 2017 year. That is great news for Prince Rupert, but it is also great news for Prince George. This city is the site for CN Rail’s inland port, thanks to this being the provincial interchange for rail lines, road lines and our international airport. It is also the flow-point where the natural resource products of all northern B.C.

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MAY 2019 | Prince George Citizen

have to pass in order to get to tidewater. Be it liquefied natural gas, propane, coal, copper, biofuel, pulp, agriculture products, or most significantly lumber, Prince George is how you get to Prince Rupert. Ken Veldman is now the vice-president of public affairs and sustainability with the PoPR but he was once a senior official with Initiatives Prince George, then this city’s economic development arm. He knows intimately the spinoff effects of that port on the rest of northern B.C. “Today the Port of Prince Rupert is Canada’s third largest port and anchors in excess of more than $35-billion in trade, which produces more than a billion dollars in economic activity in northern B.C.,” he said. “The companies that move international trade through this region directly employ in excess of 3,000 people in high-wage jobs, a large portion of which are Indigenous.” When calculated, the estimated wages of all those people was $260-million in the pockets of workers who send their goods through the PoPR. Furthermore, the estimation in money that flows from those companies and their workers into government’s purse for public services was an estimated $112-million in the 2017 year. “2018 marked another record year for nearly every line of business that we have at the Port of Prince Rupert, and we have significant investments in new capacities and capabilities coming online or being developed throughout 2019,” Veldman


Growth & DEVELOPMENT

CN Rail Yard in Prince George

said. “This includes the completion of AltaGas’s Ridley Island propane export terminal this spring, and another expansion of DP World’s Fairview container terminal.” DP World’s first expansion allowed them to hit a major milestone – one that translates directly to Prince George. All those shipping containers that buzz about CN’s network in Prince George? DP World moved more than a million of them in one year, and they are setting up to grow. On December 18th, the millionth TEU (the industry nickname for those containers) was loaded onto the COSCO Africa. The 40-foot container was loaded with dimensional lumber from Canfor’s Plateau mill near Vanderhoof and processed for shipping at CN’s Prince George Transload Facility before arriving in Prince Rupert by rail. “Asia is an important and growing market for Canfor. The Port of Prince Rupert has been integral in our ability to get our products to Asia quickly and reliably and will continue to be a critical infrastructure hub for our products destined for offshore markets,” said Mark Feldinger, Senior Vice-President, Global Supply Chain for Canfor and Canfor Pulp, the largest single employer in Prince George’s

The Port of Prince Rupert

Citizen photo by Brent Braaten

private sector. Maksim Mihic, General Manager of DP World (Canada) Inc., said “This accomplishment is also a testament to the strong collaboration and support amongst the supply chain and community partners. DP World Prince Rupert is a vital link in enabling Canadian trade and this achievement reflects the potential of the port and is a sign of many more to come.” Veldman said the collection of abilities being developed at the PoPR would only serve the north more significantly in the years ahead. The numbers are so big that they don’t just resonate in places like Prince George where jobs and secondary industries are underway thanks to their industrial hotspot, but they radiate all the way across the nation. “The Port of Prince Rupert has been a catalyst in growing Canada’s trade with the Asia Pacific,” he said. “With our supply chain partners along the corridor, we add value to the lumber, pulp, wood pellet, coal, hay, grain and soon propane from northern communities by providing better access to high prices in diversified international markets.” A high tide floats all boats, as the old saying goes, and the PoPR has indeed lifted the fortunes of Prince George.

Photo Courtesy of The Port Of Prince Rupert

Prince George Citizen | MAY 2019

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Growth & DEVELOPMENT

Paving and Pounding on Public Projects FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff With files by Mark Nielsen

Prince George marks the seasons by different names. There’s hockey season (winter), there’s lake season (summer), there’s back to school and get ready for hockey season (fall) and then there’s spring. Around here we call that construction season. The City of Prince George, just like the private sector, gets building projects into high gear as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Some high-profile public-sector projects are already underway on behalf of the local resident. Most recently it was announced that the long awaited entrance to the Bob Harkins Branch of the Prince George Public Library was going to get an upgrade to its entrance. There had been hopes it would be included in past municipal budgets, and consternation that it wasn’t part of the work done in that vicinity when the 2015 Canada Winter Games triggered a revamp of that plaza. But it’s happening now. City council approved a $3.95-million budget for the project. The cement and metal railing staircase up to the entrance on the north side has been in place since the building was opened in 1982 and has long been considered unsightly, unwelcoming and a safety concern, particularly in the winter. The new entrance will amount to a

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MAY 2019 | Prince George Citizen

Concept design for the new Fire Hall #1 City handout image

2.5-storey addition with a total gross floor on Massey Drive. The current FH1 is more than 60 years old and well past the area of 394 square metres (4,240 square point of functionality for today’s firefightfeet). The building envelope will consist ing equipment. of metal panel with extensive glazing to allow a maximum amount of natural light Perhaps the most notable feature, the building’s roof will follow a gradual curve and create an open atmosphere. along its 200-foot length, brought out “Tonight, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our political will and our ap- all the more by the fact it will be clad in black metal siding although brightened proval to get this library entrance done,” with a glazed glass frontage along the five said Coun. Terri McConnachie, who truck bays to make them “very open and is council’s liaison to the library board. visible to “Like the public,” myself, it’s said archinot going tect Stuart to get any Rothnie younger, of HCMA it’s not Architects going to and Planget any ning. cheaper to “The idea fix and it’s being that certainly we’re trynot going ing to repto fix resent the itself.” capability In a of the fire separate This artist’s rendition shows the planned redesign for the Prince George Public Library’s departvote by city Bob Harkins branch. ment council, City handout image and not the library’s shut them circulation desk will also get a $409,000 renovation at behind closed doors,” he said. Inside, a fair amount of exposed wood in the same time. the form of fir and larch will be incorpoAlso underway is the long awaited rated into bays’ ceiling, although most replacement of Fire Hall No. 1. The earth of the structure will consist of steel and work is being done now on this $15-milconcrete in the name of longevity. lion project alongside the Northern B.C. Over the course of about 200 feet, the YMCA and downtown baseball complex building’s height will rise from 1 /12 stories at its western end to a “crescendo” of three stories on its eastern side, where the administrative offices, an emergency operations centre and a dispatch centre will be housed. A hose tower and radio tower will occupy the back side. “We wanted to create a very simple clean form that, as you drive by, you recognize it very powerfully as the fire hall,” Rothnie said. “Now there is a lot of use of black metal in here, but there are red accents that will pick up the fire engine red and we’re going to be using that a lot in the detailing of the windows, the canopies, the entry, so that you can actually identify this for other reasons as a fire hall.” In all, it will hold five truck bays with all

the support and suppression functions on one level, which Rothnie said will significantly improve turnout times. The location was chosen, in part, because it will increase the area firefighters can reach within eight minutes by 50 per cent. Mayor Lyn Hall said the look left him “absolutely blown away.” To lessen the chance of conflicts with traffic, access to the YMCA will be moved to its southwest side where patrons will enter and exit via Del Laverdure Way adjacent to the horseshoe pits and then wind around the back to the parking lot. L&M Engineering provded the engineering and IDL Projects will manage construction. Those are exceptional capital projects. The City of Prince George also has its regular slate of paving activities that pour out each spring. That surfacing work pumps millions of dollars each year into the local economy, and also smooths the way for residents to do their business across the city. About 40 lane-kilometres of roads and sidewalks are scheduled for this year. This largest paving project will be along Foothills Boulevard just south of Highland Drive. The largest sidewalk project will be along the south side of Highland Drive, from Berwick to Glenngarry Road. Two new sidewalks are also being constructed this year on 2nd Avenue from Ospika to Quinn Street, and on 22nd Avenue from Highway 97 to the entrance to College of New Caledonia. Already, workers have been rehabilitating a section of sidewalk on the north side of 15th Avenue near the intersection with Ospika Blvd. Other road rehabilitation projects of the season are: Emerald Drive from Nordic Drive to Diamond Drive; Diamond Drive from Nordic Drive to Jade Drive; Jade Drive from Chestnut Drive to Emerald Drive and Taft Drive from Eden Drive to Glenview Drive. Motorists are advised to prepare for taking alternate routes whenever paving projects occur in your usual driving pattern, and to drive with caution around road crews. Maps showing all the projects slated for this year are posted with this story at pgcitizen.ca.


Growth & DEVELOPMENT

Green Light for Glittering Gold FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff An area gold mine proposal just got the go-ahead from the federal government. The federal government has given the green light to the New Gold-Blackwater project near Prince George. The proposed gold mine has been advancing for several years towards startup, and one of the most important hurdles in the process was passing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s exhaustive checklist. “The Government of Canada is protecting the environment and growing the economy,” said Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, on Monday afternoon when the announcement was made. “By evaluating this project based on science and Indigenous knowledge, and putting in place legally binding measures that will protect the environment, we are helping create economic growth and nearly 2,000 jobs for the community.” The mine is located 110 km south of Vanderhoof and 160 km southwest of Prince George at Mount Davidson. A company statement affirmed that the news out of Ottawa meant the project “can proceed following a thorough and science-based environmental assessment process concluding that the project is

not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects when mitigation measures are taken into account.” The official Minister’s Decision Statement establishes 172 conditions the New Gold company must fulfill throughout the life of the project. These conditions will reduce or eliminate the potential effects on the environment and include measures to protect wetlands, fish and fish habitat, migratory birds, the current use of lands and resources by Indigenous peoples, physical and cultural heritage and structures, and wildlife and species at risk. “The project consists of the construction, operation and closure of an open-pit gold and silver mine,” said the minister’s statement (some zinc is also in the mineral profile of the mountain). “The proposed $1.8 billion project could create up to 1,500 jobs during construction and 495 ongoing jobs during operations over the life of the project, according to figures provided by the proponent.” “This positive decision marks the conclusion of the project’s federal environmental assessment, a very significant milestone for the project,” said a company statement. “New Gold is awaiting a decision from the Province of British Columbia regarding the provincial environmental assessment. We want to thank everyone for their continued support of the project during this phase of the environmental assessment.”

The Blackwater Project, located 160 kilometres southwest of Prince George Image courtesy of New Gold-BlackWater

Prince George Citizen | MAY 2019

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Growth & DEVELOPMENT

Nailing Down Prince George’s Future FRANK PEEBLES Citizen Staff

When there are downturns in the economy and your business slows down, any investment expert will tell you that is when you pump money into capital improvements, technology, innovation tools and better systems. On the home front the advice is the same. Not selling your home? Good. Get to work on renovations. It’s financially challenging to do everything all at once, so use the luxury of time to upscale your house and property. It not only creates a better investment, it creates a better home to enjoy, not in which to merely pass the time. The general Prince George region seems to have gotten that message. According to the local branch of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, a lot of local hammers are pounding out the rhythm of redevelopment. “Housing starts are right on track. It’s at a less frantic pace, as it has been the last few years, but it is still so busy home

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MAY 2019 | Prince George Citizen

go with the hard facts. The underlying builders are flat out until it snows and word of the year, said McConnachie, is we have to button up the construcrenovation. tion season for another year, but until “Renovations have seen an uptick - a lot then it is hair straight back,” said Terri of renovations - we’ve heard from our McConnachie, executive director of the builders,” she said. “People are investing Canadian Home Builders’ Association in their own - Northern homes with BC. renovations.” This associaAs for why tion detects Our homes are our biggest that is, Mcmore trendinvestment. Technology, Connachie ing groundis observing information design, materials have all a large set of than the made it more possible to homeownnumbers ers who have out of City retrofit and expand and no intention Hall because of moving the group of update the spaces we already anytime construction, own or live in. soon. This design, and area’s housing maintenance – Terrie McConnachie, Executive Director of market is not professionthe Canadian Home Builders’ Association built for the als do even Northern BC quick buck, the work for but it is very which no dependable permits are needed, the work in the regional district, at delivering strong return on long-term investment, and things can be done midthe work on farms, the work in neighstream to give that end result a boost. bouring towns, and the anecdotes that “There is a whole population of homeowners who are in the process of building equity or they are just living their lives in the spaces they want right now, but they don’t want to live in a lesser structure and they are also looking to the future towards resale one day, so they want to add value to their investment, and they do that with renovations,” she said. “Our homes are our biggest investment. Technology, design, materials have all made it more possible to retrofit and expand and update the spaces we already own or live in.” Twenty years ago, no homeowner would consider it a wise financial investment to install solar panels, but the money math has changed so that is now a stronger option.

Twenty years ago, no one would have thought it prudent to install a charging station in the garage to plug in an electric car. Twenty years ago, a hot water ondemand system or waterless toilet or heated driveway or smartphone security features or Far InfraRed space heaters were almost science fiction items.   Now, all of these are considerations in the milieu of what can be done with a modern building. For most homeowners, the only way to take modern technology on board is to retrofit not build a new home from scratch. “A lot of our builders do both. They can build from greenspace all the way up, or they can help you design and renovate your spaces you’re already living in,” said McConnachie. There is a strong consciousness in the local area right now about learning what upgrades at your particular property might reap the best return on investment later in life, what upgrades will help you stay in your home longer in life if you want to age in place, what upgrades will save you money or other personal resources by saving energy, and what upgrades will just make life a lot nicer if you had them. “A lot of these older buildings around Prince George are actually adequate, quite good, for that home reno,” McConnachie said. “And that is making good use of our older housing stock at the same time. In other instances it is more economical to just buy new. It’s not one size fits all, but the homeowner has more tools now than ever to make those choices to move into something brand new or to include renovations as part of their home investment plan. “Life stages and life ages determine the kind of home where you hang your hat,” she added. “We have members who are there to maximize the potential of your home, wherever you may be in your life’s positions.”


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