A SOCIETY formed in the middle part of the last decade to encourage economic diversification in the region is winding down its affairs.
The Kitimat-Terrace Industrial Development Society feels its role has ended, says Lael McKeown, a past president of the society.
She said the years immediately before the formation of the society in 2005 were quite different than today with the region benefitting from the potential for a liquefied natural gas industry, the effects of ongoing development at the Prince Rupert port and other development which is broadening out the area’s economic base.
“You have to remember that when we were formed, the [Rio Tinto Alcan smelter] modernization hadn’t started and forestry was in the dumps,” said McKeown.
Alcan, now Rio Tinto Alcan, was the early major backer of the society, which took as one of its goals the idea of building off of the aluminum smelter’s presence.
“Alcan very much felt that the weight of the region was on its shoulders. They were the sole large industry and they wanted to encourage other development,” said McKeown.
The loss of the Eurocan pulp and paper mill in Kitimat in late 2009 added to the regional downturn. Society members even travelled to the Saguenay in Quebec where Rio Tinto Alcan dominates the economy to look at what it did to encourage other development.
McKeown said the focus of society business partners, which provided it with money, has also changed.
“Alcan certainly has been very generous but they are now concentrating on modernization,” said McKeown of a continuing key financial benefactor.
“Other business partners were prepared to support us, but we didn’t have the level that we needed,” she added.
Aside from an economic focus, which included commissioning a number of studies keying on the development potential of the area, McKeown said the society proved invaluable in presenting a united regional front, thanks to members in Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat.
And that was important considering municipal opposition in Kitimat in the last decade to the Rio Tinto Alcan modernization plan, she added.
“We really needed to get the message out that we could do business in the northwest,” said McKeown.
She said society members are working on plans to preserve and make available its various studies and reports once it ceases operations.
Colleen Nyce from Rio Tinto Alcan said the company appreciated the work of the society.
“There was no local economic authority in Kitimat at that time to work with and there was very little collaboration with other community leadership,” she said.
“The business minded, economically proactive and energetic people who had the courage to create KTIDS are people who have vision and who give their ‘utmost’ to their communities.
“We were relieved and proud to work with KTIDS. We were happy to provide support to in part to enable them to carry out their economic recruitment work on behalf of the region.”