Preparing for success: Progress and development in the Northern Rockies

Building into the future.  Photo courtesy of Chris Gail – Northern Photography.

Building into the future. Photo courtesy of Chris Gail – Northern Photography.

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM), working with the province, industry and Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN) are all focused on ensuring development in British Columbia’s most northeastern region that is both balanced and sustainable.  Significant new discoveries as the result of ongoing natural gas exploration, combined with known energy reserves and the refinement of technologies in both upstream and downstream production, and momentum in the development of west coast Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects, foretell continued growth in both the natural gas sector and the community itself.  Canfor’s disposal of assets (two production facilities and equipment) in the Fort Nelson area where a large, available wood supply, as healthy as it is diverse, with the capacity to support a range of new operations, poses substantial investment opportunities in this industry. 

The achievement of an Infrastructure Development Contribution Agreement (IDCA) with the Province of British Columbia in 2013 attests to the Province’s commitment to sharing financial and leadership responsibility with the NRRM to develop crucial components of the region’s infrastructure, benefitting residents and contributing to the economic future of the province.  With the IDCA in place, investment into the rehabilitation of aging infrastructure, essential to sustainable industry access and development, is already underway.  A primary source of natural gas to future LNG developments in Kitimat and Prince Rupert, and having one of the most desirable baskets of timber in the province, Fort Nelson and the NRRM sees 2014-2016 as a period of preparation.  Forecasts for direct employment of future natural gas sector expansion alone show the potential for a workforce of up to 10,000 in the NRRM by 2020.

The Alaska Highway, combined with railhead access and regular scheduled and charter air service at the Northern Rockies Regional Airport (NRRA), makes Fort Nelson an ideal transportation hub. Strategic business and capital planning and development around transportation are well advanced as manifested in the Alaska Highway Corridor Study and upgrades to aprons and runways at the NRRA.  In response to the development of shale gas resources and the associated needs of the service sector, new light-industrial lands are in the second phase of development.  There are 250 local, fully serviced acres, accessible by an industrial traffic route off of the Alaska Highway available for purchase. At the same time, the Forestry Roundtable meets regularly to explore new options in our changing forest sector, maintaining focus on that industry. FNFN and the NRRM have agreed to pursue a community forest agreement, one which would lead to a community forest tenure.

Fort Nelson, heart of the Northern Rockies.

Fort Nelson, heart of the Northern Rockies.

Tourism in this incredible region also remains a force, with the world-famous Alaska Highway as Fort Nelson’s main street, and the globally significant 6.4M hectare Muskwa-Kechika wilderness lying in the backyard.  The number of visitors to the area steadily climbs annually, as the desire to explore and experience the “true north” remains a motivational driver for many new and repeat visitors.

Over 300 new businesses of all sizes have established themselves in Fort Nelson since 2009, with a continued expectation of growth beyond 2014. Storefronts in retail, service-sector providers, corporate oil and gas drilling, completion and production services, and the expansion of the accommodations sector all show the value and measurable potential of the NRRM. Many of those interested in possibilities in the region will be attending the 2014 B.C. Oil and Gas Conference in Fort Nelson September 30 through October 1, 2014.

Reaching the peak of business success is no small feat: doing so in the Northern Rockies is well within reach.

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