One of the early findings from our Wildfire Recovery Team’s efforts is that this summer’s wildfires have increased the sense of economic uncertainty in our region among residents and small business owners. While this isn’t a surprising or unexpected result, there is evidence all around us that actually presents a positive counterpoint to this deepening uncertainty.
Investment in the retail sector is up, as can be seen in the new buildings underway and major renovations undertaken in the south Quesnel commercial area and the major renovation in progress at West Park Mall. So far in 2017, we’ve seen $2.2 million in retail investment in Quesnel compared to only $34,000 in 2016. The City’s planning department is also working with actual and potential investors on other projects that will fill some of our currently empty commercial spaces with innovative enterprises.
Another indicator that we’re experiencing a positive business environment is that recent reports from our retail sector suggest that many businesses will be closing out the year with increased sales volumes over last year (please shop local for your Christmas gifts and make this a banner year for all our local businesses!).
The two major housing projects underway in North Quesnel and the major renovation to Milestone Manor on Front Street are not only a boost to our local economy, they represent an investment in the future of our community by creating more housing options to help us retain and attract residents. Council hopes that these projects are merely the start of a trend that will see private sector investment in multi-unit housing as well, and we are actively looking at options to entice these private sector investments.
Council is also hopeful that we’ve presented a strong case to the provincial government for significant public sector investments in our community in the near future. Investments in our hospital, schools, trades facility at CNC, and highway 97 will all provide a strong boost to our local economy, improve the attractiveness of Quesnel to new residents and new investment, and improve the resiliency and sustainability of our community.
Significant investments are also being made in our forest sector, which remains the foundation of our economy. West Fraser, Tolko, and C&C Wood Products have all made recent investments in their Quesnel operations and have plans underway for more investments. The decision by West Fraser to rebuild the Westpine MDF Plant after the 2016 explosion is a clear sign of that company’s confidence in the future of our community, as are West Fraser’s continued investments in their other Quesnel operations and in the new arena and other recreational amenities in Quesnel.
Other resource sectors in our region are also seeing increased investment. Barkerville Gold Mines development of a major gold field near Wells has boosted the Quesnel economy and has created significant job opportunities in our area. And, we are seeing increased investment in the agriculture sector as new (and younger) entrepreneurs move into our region to access our relatively inexpensive agricultural land.
While this summer’s wildfires created legitimate concerns and uncertainty about the future of our forest-dependent community, there are signs all around us that individual and corporate investors have confidence in the resiliency and sustainability of our local economy.