By Alex Pietrella
It started earlier this year with the first containers rolling into Kitimat, setting the ground for the work camp around RTA’s modernization project which was then officially announced last week. It gathered momentum with Apache’s purchase of the old West Fraser mill site in Kitimat and the export licence by the NEB to ship liquefied natural gas to markets in Asia.
Even Shell, one of the largest oil and gas players in this world has jumped on board by acquiring the old Methanex site from Cenovus. Adding numerous mining and power projects and we have a full blown boom, this region has not seen in decades, if ever.
It makes perfect sense for the Port of Prince Rupert to announce its investment plans and gateway vision, when the whole country is starting to look west.
The starting of the Northwest Transmission Line is opening up the corridor north of Terrace towards the Yukon border with several mining projects in starting position. True, most of these projects will bring the highest job influx during the years of construction, but once construction for all these projects is completed sometime around 2018, there still will be between 2,000 and 3,000 additional long-term, well paying sustainable jobs in this region that waited so long.
The economies of scale will be large enough for additional Tier 2 and Tier 3 service companies to expand or move in and service the new arrivals with non-core business services, like maintenance, engineering, sight safety, clean-up etc.
The activity clusters around the Port of Prince Rupert for transportation services, the mining cluster north of Terrace towards Dease Lake, the Gas and Manufacturing Cluster in Kitimat and Kitamaat Village will all need additional services that are either too small to date or simply undeveloped. Terrace’s location is ideal for playing a vital role in adding these services for the region and within become a part of the investments looming.
This is all very exciting and brings hope where it was lost for so long, and where core social services deteriorated over time. Economic Development, Social and Educational Infrastructure must not follow each other, they must work hand in hand to find the right balance of Growth, Family Values, Communal Spirit and Safety. Sustainability is exactly that.
Many of the groups and societies in the area have realized that they are dependent on each other and the path ahead can only be sustainable if it is managed in a cooperative and open-minded environment. It is the cooperative approach and the trusting debate between project proponents and all communities in the area, which will decide if this region can be prosperous and gain all possible success from the investments looming.
The debates about the pros and cons of some of the proposed projects are important as shifting paradigms always come with anxiety and insecurity.
A lot of the questions can be answered with facts and figures, some will never be answered as they just require that believing in diversifying the economy is necessary. And it is necessary to keep families together and bring those people back that would have liked to stay, but could not make a living in this beautiful part of BC.
I personally hope that the large projects will give a sense of pride and ownership and create a momentum for other ideas and small businesses to possibly add value to the logging industry and create jobs with innovative solutions around wood as well.
The next five years will determine where this region will be and how much the people living here took advantage of the opportunities. Taking change with a positive and proactive approach is necessary to maximize the long term benefits.
A region that speaks as one will be able to mandate what it needs to be able to manage the growth, as the northwest of BC, much like the northeast, will be the economic drivers of the province, and then has every right to request better infrastructure, better services and a brighter tomorrow.
The change is coming, let’s manage it properly so everyone can see the positive influence.
Alex Pietrella is the executive director of the Kitimat-Terrace Industrial Development Society.