Opportunities are abundant in the natural resource-rich North Peace region

Written by Kaleena Ross, North Peace Economic Development Commission

Photos provided by the District of Hudson's Hope, District of Taylor, and the City of Fort St. John.

Photos provided by the District of Hudson’s Hope, District of Taylor, and the City of Fort St. John.

Explorers, fur traders, and then homesteaders joined the First Nations and settled the vast northeast region of British Columbia with dreams of freedom and a better life. These same dreams continue to attract people to the North Peace today. But now, instead of hardship, newcomers find contemporary community facilities, and remarkable job and business opportunities.

Bisected by the Peace River, the B.C. Peace region comprises nearly one-quarter of the province’s land area. The people of this region find many benefits to living in a vibrant and diversified economy. The largest demographic of the region’s population is comprised by young, growing families. This is largely due to the numerous child development, healthcare, education, and activity programs that are provided to the residents of the region. The North Peace region is not only a great place to raise a family and live an active lifestyle; it is also a place that is rich with opportunities to start a business.

The North Peace region’s competitive advantages are its low tax rates, low cost of energy, connectivity to the shortest link between Shanghai and Chicago through the Port of Prince Rupert, low overall business costs (including a regional airport), and low cost of land. From prairie farmland and boreal forest to alpine tundra and rugged Rocky Mountains, the Peace Region produces 90 per cent of the province’s grains, 38 per cent of its hydro-electric power, has some of the largest gas fields in North America with more than 20,000 wells drilled, employs about 2,300 forestry workers, and plays host to more than 300,000 tourists each year.

19-2The North Peace region plays a significant role in the province’s economy, contributing an estimated $9.2 billion, or 12 per cent of B.C.’s net exports. While a significant share, it is made even more remarkable when considered in the context of the region’s workforce: with only two per cent of the province’s labour force, each worker in the region generated nearly seven times more in export revenue versus the province as a whole. This staggering contribution to the province’s exports is made possible by its vibrant and diversified economy which includes strong industries in energy and fuels, mining, agriculture, forestry, tourism, and retail and construction.

The energy sector is currently driving the economy in the North Peace and greatly contributing to the provincial economy, accounting for 90 per cent of B.C.’s energy and fuels exports in 2010. Oil & Gas Inquirer magazine indicated that “The Montney and Horn River unconventional gas plays are massive prospects that are reshaping Canada’s petroleum sector.”  The region saw significant growth in the energy sector in 2011, with several large production companies beginning exploration and production operations in the Montney Basin.

Worldwide demand for coal has increased dramatically and created many more opportunities in the North Peace which has hundreds of years of coal reserves remaining. There are currently proposals for three separate coal mines that border the edges of the District of Hudson’s Hope with expected reserves of over 50 years each. Currently, the region’s mining activities contribute 14 per cent of B.C.’s total mining exports with the expectation that this will grow significantly with the approval of the proposed mining projects.

Fort St. John, "The Energetic City".

Fort St. John, “The Energetic City”.

On April 19, 2010, the B.C. government announced that it would be moving forward with the third stage of the Site C Clean Energy project (Site C). Site C will contribute to the local and provincial economy by creating an estimated 7,500 direct construction jobs throughout the construction period and up to 35,000 indirect jobs through all stages of the project.

The agriculture sector includes prairie crops of wheat, barley, canola, and forage seed production. The region contributes 90 per cent of B.C.’s wheat, 95 per cent of B.C.’s canola, 30 per cent of B.C.’s honey production, and exceptional quality grass seeds which help make livestock production in the North Peace particularly competitive. Livestock production includes traditional beef and dairy cattle, sheep, hogs, goats, and horses, and a growing diversification into game farming of bison, reindeer, and exotic livestock like llama, alpaca, fox, ostrich, emu, and wild boar. The region is home to some of the largest herds of bison in the province, producing nearly three-quarters of B.C.’s bison.

The forestry sector includes a wide array of tree species that vary from spruce to balsam poplar and paper birch. The majority of the timber harvested from the 4.673 million hectares of the Fort St. John TSA is processed by the pulp mill, sawmill, and one of the world’s largest OSB plants that are located in the North Peace.

The explosive growth in the region has led to a dire need for residential and commercial developments in the region as a whole. The communities require the construction of an additional 1,000 family dwellings this year alone. A significant growth in population is anticipated to occur over the next decade resulting in a demand for housing that cannot be met by current infrastructure.

The North Peace is abundant with opportunities and welcomes you with an entrepreneurial spirit!

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