Call issued for regional unity

Cooperation need in northwestern BC for economic and social success

  • Tue Sep 18th, 2012 4:00pm
  • News

HE doesn’t care what it’s called just as long as a group of regional leaders is formed so the northwest can better control its future.

It’s a key conclusion Alex Pietralla from the Kitimat-Terrace Industrial Development Society (KTIDS)-Northwest has reached as a result of a study of northeastern B.C.’s experience with an energy industry-fueled boom released today.

Among other things, the regional group of leaders from all walks of life would act as a communications hub so that as much information flows to as many people as possible.

Equally as important is planning, even if only that plan consists of goals written on a piece of paper, said Pietralla.

The study of northeastern B.C., commissioned by KTIDS-Northwest, the Terrace Economic Development Authority and the District of Kitimat, anticipates a similar economic expansion in this region based on projects either already underway or about to start.

“I can’t stress enough that the northwest needs to act as a region and to work collaboratively,” said Pietralla in reviewing the study.

The study, prepared by the Community Development Institute of the University of Northern British Columbia, came from a series of interviews of northeastern residents questioned on everything from local government to health care to education to local hiring.

The consistent advice to come from the interviews is to communicate clearly, effectively, as early as possible and consistently in the effort to work together, said Pietralla.

He noted that one of the strengths of the northeast is that it does view itself as a region ready to work together.

“There you have one larger centre, Fort St. John, and a number of smaller communities around it,” said Pietralla.

The northwest situation is different because it has three larger centres – Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert – and more local and regional government structures than exist in the northeast.

That presents more of a challenge but Pietralla says common goals such as preparing local residents for employment, encouraging people to move here and improving recreational and social amenities can be developed.

To better focus its own work as a regional development entity, KTIDS has just added “Northwest” to its name.

Pietralla noted that when change happens, it happens fast and those that are not prepared, will be caught off guard.

“You can sit back and let it happen. But then don’t be surprised if it’s not to your liking,” added Pietralla of events which can sweep through a region.

“Let’s view change with a positive approach. Let’s embrace it.”

Some of the advice contained in the study, developing material for potential industrial investors, for example, is already underway.

“It validates some of the efforts already happening,” said Pietralla.

At the same time, the City of Terrace, for instance, has taken the lead in lobbying the province to share  tax revenues it’ll reap when industrial projects are up and running.

The need for regional unity and vision is also important when asking senior governments for financial help or other assistance, said Pietralla.

“Without that, it’s easy for those governments to say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know where to put my money,’” Pietralla added.

The study is being unveiled at a session hosted today by KTIDS – Northwest, the District of Kitimat and the Terrace Economic Development Authority.

Pietralla will also be presenting the study in Prince Rupert.