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Think tank to close

BARRING A last minute infusion of money, a northwest resources think tank formed in 2009 is poised to shut down.

“We had a lot of people say they like what we do but unfortunately none of them came forward with any money,” says Rick Brouwer from the Skeena-Nass Centre for Innovation in Resource Economics (SNCIRE).

The society has already closed its office.

The non-profit society, which had four part-time employees, began a campaign late last year to raise $200,000.

That would have provided a more stable financial base for the society which had relied on grants for specific projects it was undertaking, said Brouwer.

Focused primarily on ways to add value to the region’s forest resource away from traditional sawmills and pulp mills, which were more subject to economic ups and downs, SNCIRE in its later years broadened its scope to look at the region’s other resources.

Brouwer said the idea of a resources think

tank grew out of conversations beginning in 2007 during a provincial forest service review of the region.

“There was a feeling for the need for a local research entity, ideally how to innovate and put real value into the [forest] resource,” he said.

The long-term view was to encourage business development that would not be affected by massive up and down economic cycles that had affected the region for years.

“When times are good, people say there’s no need and when times are bad, they say there’s no money to do anything,” said Brouwer.

During its time, SNCIRE showcased artists and others in the hopes of developing high value niche markets using regional wood resources.

It also worked to develop larger projects such as bio-energy plants using northwest fibre.

“But really, our thinking is that we wanted to shift away from a dependence on low value entities,” said Brouwer.

“What I think we have done is plant some seeds and some day we hope to see them germinate,” he said.

As well, Brouwer welcomed moves that were made for the region to act together in resource use and development planning.

SNCIRE, for example, was hired through a federal-provincial initiative to look at the skills needed by northwest residents based on expected industrial development in the region.

Through that it was involved with Partnerships 2020, a Terrace conference which brought together companies, training agencies and local governments.

A motion to dissolve the society will be debated at its May annual general meeting.

Brouwer said the society is looking for another agency or facility to house its mostly digital collection of research and information that it has gathered up since its formation.

SNCIRE is planning one last event that will end in May.

It’s hosting an innovation challenge in which it wants to attract entries highlighting the creativity of people in the northwest over the past several years.

The Northwest Innovation Challenge is giving away $11,000 in cash prizes.

Prize money comes from $5,000 that Spectra Energy gave, and when the challenge was being planned, other businesses and groups were contacted, said SNCIRE communications coordinator Sarah Artis.

Terrace Community Forest gave another $5,000 and UNBC donated $1,000 toward the prizes as well, she added.

SNCIRE also had some money  left over from its last couple of years of operation so that will be used to pay for the challenge event itself, said Artis.

The finalists will be announced April 17 and they will receive $250 to ready their idea for display and to be judged at the challenge event May 9.

The public is invited to come see what people have to present as their idea and cash prizes will be awarded, said Artis.

People will be able to vote by anonymous ballot for the People’s Choice Award.

On that same night will be the SNCIRE annual general meeting too, she added.

The Northwest Innovation Challenge starts at 7 p.m. May 9.

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