The northwest as a whole needs to work together to make the bright economic future and proposed projects planned in the area a reality.
That was the message of Alex Pietralla of the Kitimat Terrace Industrial Development Northwest Society during a Chamber of Commerce luncheon held on Nov. 21.
“A lot of what you see… Will only happen if we work collaboratively and are open and honest about road ahead,” said Pietralla, who was meeting with the Chamber to outline an impact study done in conjunction with UNBC that saw 21 community and industry leaders in northeast B.C. interviewed on 12 different aspects of development.
“Whatever we see here in the next few years is going to be very significant…. The scale of development, some think will be $16 billion but we’ve done studies projecting $40 to $50 billion if all projects move ahead.”
With that much potential investment, Pietralla said it is important not only to increase the speed in which projects can develop but to create a welcoming atmosphere for industry. Along with that, the region needs to be ready to provide workers for the projects.
“A lot of the jobs that are coming will need experience, and it is not experience that they can get here now… We need to encourage our young people, particularly First Nations, to go outside of the region, get that experience and come back,” he said, adding that training opportunities need to reflect the current workplace reality.
“If you bring a young person with their whole life in front of them and bring them into a facility [with outdated equipment], what message does that send? We value you, but here is what you’ll be training on. That is ridiculous to be honest.”
But perhaps above all, Pietralla said cities looking to get the most from industrial development need to have a plan and need to be brutally honest with themselves.
“No change will come and will go the way you want it to if you are not open and honest… Don’t change what you want to be in 20 to 30 years, Make sure you have a vision for your community and communicate that with industry when they are in town,” he said, adding that quality of life is an important consideration for many industries.
“They really want to make sure that once the project is built, those 400 or 500 employees are happy where they live. They want to have people that are going to be on the job for 20 years because they are happy with where they live.”
The 150 page report can be found in its entirety on the Kitimat Terrace Industrial Development Society website at www.ktids.ca