Those who don’t plan will be in trouble

KTIDS and its partners are to be congratulated for their decision to reach out to the Peace River region agencies

The Kitimat-Terrace Industrial Development Society (KTIDS) and its partners are to be congratulated for their decision to reach out to the Peace River region agencies to learn and benefit from their experiences with rapid industrial expansion.

To learn from those who have “been there, done that” is a sensible strategy. Too many agencies, especially in government, tend to prefer inventing the wheel time and time again.

The study, carried out by the University of Northern British Columbia’s Community Development Institute, examined 12 socio-economic topic areas potentially affected by major development.

The focus of the study within each of these areas was on pressures experienced, on actions taken in response to these pressures, and on advice arising from the Peace River experience.

The leading recommendations call for attention to communications, to research and information, and to planning. If nothing else, the recommendations confirm that KTIDS is on the right track: the society communicated with another region in search of information essential to its planning. Well done.

Readers may be tempted to skim over the pressure and action points listed in the report, moving directly to the advice given. Here is what we need to do in Terrace when the anticipated industrial boom begins.

That approach, however, would squander the report’s most valuable finding: the importance of research. The greatest benefit Terrace and other regions stand to gain from the study is likely to come from paying close attention not to what actions Peace River took, but to the causes of the pressures experienced by that region’s many agencies.

Listed under the “Pressures” heading we find repeated references to adverse conditions such as lack of communication, lack of information, lack of coordination, and superficial planning.

Research. The word itself leads us to the starting point which is to search, to search again, and then to take another look. What is the state of the community’s physical infrastructure?

What is the availability and affordability of housing in Terrace? What are the capacities of our protective services and how effective is their cooperation and coordination? What are the strengths, weaknesses, and capacities in our community — not only financial but also physical, organizational, and structural — in these and the other sectors examined in the Peace River study?

The UNBC study offers Terrace a useful starting point for the kind of research we need to do.

Rapid development has a potential for significant upfront costs that precede the benefits of development.

From a financial perspective, the current political climate is less than ideal for communities facing the prospect of rapid industrial development.

We find ourselves in a period of political uncertainty as it concerns the availability and relevance of, and access to, provincial and federal government programs.

This uncertainty accentuates the urgency for sober research into the community’s capabilities to respond appropriately to a rapid rise in demand in critical service areas.

We may have an idea, but we cannot know when growth and development pressures will emerge.

When that time comes it is important to understand how potential pressure points are linked: if A happens, what would be the likely impact on B and on C? We cannot rely on good luck to help the community cope with the challenges and consequences of rapid development.

A community needs to plan if it hopes to minimize the negative impacts and consequences of rapid industrial development.

The purpose of an industrial development plan is to identify potential pressure points, to examine and evaluate practical responses, and from that basis to provide coordinated and purpose-oriented direction for community decisions in response to proposed major industrial projects.

The likelihood of a community realizing long-term benefits from industrial development depends on its commitment to a disciplined approach to research and planning. Being prepared makes it possible for development to benefit both investors and the community.

Andre Carrel is a retired public sector administrator living in Terrace, B.C.