Stepping off the roller coaster ride

The Northeast coal slopes are buzzing with activity again. Tumbler Ridge is positioned perfectly to benefit immensely from the resurgence. Signs of renewed economic activity are everywhere: new jobs, rapidly rising property values and increased levels of traffic everywhere. We are projected to grow from a locally estimated population base of 3200 people to over 6000 in the next 3 to 5 years. That does not factor in the growth that will be derived from indirect employment brought forward by a rapidly growing oil and gas industry.

With all the good news that is arriving on a daily basis, why would there be any reason to worry? Because nothing lasts forever.

As an economic development officer that was raised in two different mining towns, my range of vision looks past the immediate range of wealth and economic activity to ponder our future past mining, past the era of energy growth to the time where the hot markets will cool and the activity associated with it will subside.

We?re only five years out of a near collapse of our community. Ten years from now, the boom will likely be finished. Looking at this timeline at a personal level, my daughter will only be ten when the boom is over. A child starting school this year will not be finished high school. It would be completely irresponsible for any of us to put up our feet and allow any single industry to be the sole guardian of our future well being. That would be like choosing to sit on a chair with one leg instead of four?the result being that someone will end up flat on their rear end. Simply put, boom and bust cycles wreak havoc on everyone that is tied to them. As communities endure periods of super inflation followed by super deflation, their resilience and ability to recover is weakened substantially.

Through the Tumbler Ridge Community Visioning and Labour Marketing Planning Project (TRLMP), my concerns have been echoed by the people who have stepped forward to express their desire for stable employment accompanied by a high quality of life. These objectives represent the elements of permanency for Tumbler Ridge, or in other words, the things that attract and retain a permanent population to support the town well into the future.

As in the natural world, where diversity is the key to the survival of any species, our permanency is tied closely to the diversification of our economy. When an economy?s reliance is spread out over a variety of business and industrial sectors, it can weather the ups and downs those sectors constantly endure. The negative effects will be felt in a diversified economy, but the effects won?t come in catastrophic proportions.

What is economic diversification? The definition of economic diversification changes with each person you speak with. From my point of view, some of the things that indicate the existence of economic diversification include:

·A variety of businesses providing a wide selection of quality products and services to the community and to our visitors;

·The ability to choose from several career paths while being able to live within community;

·Initiatives are in place to respect and enhance the community?s quality of life as it relates to safety, sound infrastructure, clean air/water, recreational and cultural activities.

As you can see, economic diversification cannot be encompassed by a singular goal. It doesn?t happen quickly. Nor is it accomplished by one individual or organization. We all play a role in securing our long term future.

As the Economic Development Officer, one of the largest challenges that I face is to effectively harness the investment and energy that is taking place at this time to establish a larger, firmer level of permanency for the town. In order to do this, I will be utilizing the results of the TRLMP as the springboard for the development of a community-based economic development strategy, or in other words, a collective plan of action for achieving the diversification we strive for.

In addition, the project has also given us a basis of guidance and support as we work towards planning for the next stages of growth in our community. But, that?s just my point of view.

Have you taken the time to consider your part in making Tumbler Ridge the best place in the world to live? Now that we?re past the information collecting portion of the TRLMP project, it?s time to put the rubber to the road and identify how we?re going to achieve the vision that?s been established. In terms defining your role in our town?s success, I cannot overemphasize the importance of becoming involved in these final stages of the process.

Please be sure to keep an eye on this article series and an ear out for the upcoming presentations. We look forward to working with you.