Strong leadership, collaboration among communities, and communication have helped the Peace River region cope with an economic boom driven by oil and gas, a researcher told an audience here Sept. 18.
Greg Halseth, with the Community Development Institute at the University of Northern British Columbia, said the decision to have the Peace speak as one voice should not be underestimated.
“If something would happen outside that affects the region, they will work together,” Halseth said in presenting a report on the Peace based on extensive interviews of key players.
Commissioned by the District of Kitimat, the Terrace Economic Development Authority and the Kitimat-Terrace Industrial Development Society – Northwest, the research is meant to help the northwest understand and prepare for an influx of industry into the area.
In addition to local and regional governments, Halseth said the northwest has aboriginal governments that could add to a common sense of purpose.
“To quote my old friend Justa Monk,” said Halseth of an aboriginal leader in northcentral BC, “We may not all be in the same canoe, but we at least can paddle in the same direction.”
Only a unified regional voice can properly prepare for and respond to economic growth and also deal with senior levels of government, Halseth stressed.
“You can no longer have some groups not included,” he said.
“People need to be included earlier,” Halseth added of communication. “The more we can do that, the better.”
Approximately 50 people heard Halseth’s presentation at the Northwest Community College longhouse.
Questions afterward centered around key issues such as training for the kind of skills required by companies either already in the region or about to move here.
“Training that’s local and appropriate is the only want to go forward,” said Halseth. He noted that companies in the northeast now require at a minimum employees who have graduated from high school.
“And they need workers who can also learn,” said Halseth.
But he also warned that fitting training in with community circumstances and needs can be complicated, a factor he said emphasizes the need for early communication.
Oil and gas producers in the Peace have combined to create an agency aimed at developing workers, said Halseth.
“They’re not kidding when they talk about being prepared for the future,” he added.