Trent Ernst, Editor
On June 2, Jordan Wall became the new Economic Development Officer, filling a role that had sat open for over a year.
Wall might look like a new face about town, but he’s not. “I’m originally from Tumbler Ridge,” he says. “I was born here and lived here for quite a while.”
Wall’s father worked at Bullmoose Mine for about 25 years, but left when the mine closed in the early 2000s. “I had left a little earlier to live with my mom in Terrace, but I always came back here,” says Wall.
After getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics, Wall moved to Asia, where he spent a number of years working in South Korea and Japan, teaching English as a Second Language, as well as working as an educational company. “So I’d go into these English Companies and help them. There was a lot of miscommunication between employers and employees because of cultural barriers, and I would help bridge what one culture was expecting from the other.”
While he was in Japan, Wall met his wife, who recently moved here from Japan.
Wall spent his first few days in the office familiarizing himself with what has been done before, reading reports and generally getting up to speed with where Tumbler Ridge is now. “The difficulties for Tumbler Ridge are the same difficulties Tumbler Ridge has always faced,” says Wall. “For instance, when things are going well, how do we keep the money in town?”
Another big nut that Wall is trying to crack: how to get “valuable tourism” into Tumbler Ridge? “I don’t think it’s enough for us to simply try and take the few dollars from people who come into town, but are doing all their shopping in Prince George, or Grande Prairie,” says Wall. “How can we capture as much of that tourism dollars in our town, rather than have people shop elsewhere then come here for the nature?
“We’ve got the beauty here, and we have a place where people can come in and set up shop for a while. This is a very safe community. When you look at some of the problems in more well-known tourist destinations like Jasper or Banff. It might not be a place where you want your 12-year-old kid running around town, but I think we could really market this place as a family friendly destination, where your kids can go into the downtown core, or go to the park, and you don’t have to worry about cars whizzing by at 100 kph, because there’s not a highway that turns into a city street that turns back into a highway.”
Wall says his role is to come up with ideas. “In the long term, business development is what we need to do to keep a sustainable economy here. Oil and gas development has moved far enough south and far enough west for us to start capturing some of that income, but those are long term plans over five, ten or fifteen years. It takes a long time. In the short term, one of the big things we can work on is tourism. We can make changes and hopefully see results in the next few years.”
Wall suspects that part of the reason he was hired is because of his experience overseas. “There’s a lot of foreign money coming into Canada right now, especially from Asia, and a lot of Asian tourism is going to Fort Mac. If Fort Mac can get their money with what they have, we can get it, too. If they can attract people to come see what they have there, we can attract them here. There are buses of Chinese tourists going up to Fort Mac to go camping. I don’t know what they did to convince people to go to Fort Mac, but we can siphon some of that off.”
But even before tourism development, Wall says the first priority is to help people after Walter idled its operations. “I’ll be helping people find jobs, and finding ways of keeping people in Tumbler Ridge. We don’t want to see what happened last time happen again. It’s going to be a struggle, but we’re doing everything we can.”