Northwest B.C. think tank faces financial difficulty

A REGIONAL think tank is in danger of closing down if it can't raise more money.

Formed nearly five years ago, the Skeena-Nass Centre for Innovation in Resource Economics (SNCIRE) says it has to raise $200,000 between now and the end of January.

The money represents the organization's minimum annual budget, allowing it to employ four part-time people and maintain an office, says executive director Rick Brouwer, one of the four employees.

SNCIRE has, in the past, relied on grants for specific projects but hasn't had any of those for awhile, he said.

You make applications to various funding agencies and some work and some don't,” Brouwer said.

At the moment, SNCIRE is working on regional decision making models and is continuing its search for ways to add value to local forest resources.

Brouwer described the former as very important given the potential for an LNG industry to change the economic and social fabric of the region and the latter as the main reason SNCIRE was formed in 2009.

We've really seen a need,” said Brouwer of regional decision making. “And we saw that need years ago. And now more and more people are talking about it. We're seeing momentum but much more work needs to be done.”

And while LNG plants will have an impact, Brouwer says the region's economic future also rests in a stable forest industry where value-added enterprises can avoid the boom and bust cycles of past forest uses.

There's been some great work done but long-term sustainability just isn't there yet,” he said of plans for a stable regional forest industry.

Brouwer's also worried that when the economy improves, people focus on the business at hand and not on how to cope with change or on what to do if there is an economic slide.

We need to be prepared for both things,” he said. “I'm hopeful we will see people that recognize that need.”

In the last several years, SNCIRE played a key role in studies pointing to the thousands of jobs that could be created in the region and of the local skills gap that needs to be closed for residents to benefit from those jobs.

It then organized a jobs conference in the spring and created a website called iChinook to connect businesses, agencies and people with skills training opportunities.

Brouwer said SNCIRE is contacting business, governments and other agencies for financial assistance.

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