Chetwynd and Area – Opportunities for growth and community experiences in Rocky Mountains foothills


Canadian Design and Construction Report special feature

Located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Chetwynd, B.C. is the province’s gateway to Peace River country. The history of the region spans the ages, from 90 million year old dinosaur tracks, hundreds of years of First Nations history and a century of European homestead history to the World War II era Alaska Highway. The community is located at the junction of highways 97 and 29 and the CN Rail mainline.

Economic development officer Ellen McAvany says the district is actively involved in several key initiatives aimed at supporting the community and growth opportunities. The Chetwynd & Area Economic Development Commission, for instance received a $48,000 grant from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources (FLNRO) for its 2016-17 Chetwynd and Area Economic Development Strategy (Industrial Review and Impact) Study to focus on updated short and long-term economic development goals.

The Economic Development Office has also been proactively supplying information to industries with inquiries for housing, accommodations, restaurants and additional services during employee intakes for projects planned in the area which include pipeline projects, oil and gas turnarounds, and intake of needed employees in many subtrades.

“We have also compiled rental and sale listings of commercial offices that are available downtown, and commercial spaces throughout Chetwynd, including commercial land rentals, sales and industrial land,” she said.

She says these initiatives will help attract new businesses for Chetwynd and in filling areas experiencing high vacancies.

“Our Façade Improvement program provides a grant from Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) to renovate, restore or redesign commercial façades and storefronts,” McAvany said. “The goal of the program is to encourage owners or tenants of commercial properties to invest in building façade upgrades that create a more interesting and appealing streetscape, attracting locals and visitors.”

To make finding directions within the community easier, Chetwynd has created tear off maps (Way Finding Strategies) to discover key locations such as the medical clinic and college, the recreation centre, and businesses in the downtown and industrial park.

McAvanay says recent announcements for increased production from local coal mines, the resumption of wind project development, steady growth in the Montney gas field and the resurgence in the local forest industry have resulted in low unemployment levels. “All our industries are recovering at the same rate, which has resulted in Chetwynd posting one of the fastest growing economies in B.C.”

A recent column from Chetwynd mayor Merlin Nichols commented on recent increased truck traffic, noting: “Conuma Coal has reactivated the idled Walter Energy mines putting scores of workers back in the pits and behind the wheels. All that is good for our economy and we are happy for the increased regional employment and other opportunities that mining activity brings in its wake. Residents of Tumbler Ridge, Chetwynd and Peace River Regional District are the main direct beneficiaries with a huge spinoff effect on local businesses.”

Supporting residents and visitors in their health and recreational pursuits, the Visitor Centre was awarded an almost $4,000 grant, which was used to purchase equipment and supplies including bicycles, helmets, game gear and sports equipment available for loan (at no cost) from the Chetwynd Visitor Centre and the Tansi Friendship Centre. “The goal was to create an opportunity for individuals in the community and visitors to experience new activities and share their stories via Chetwynd social media opportunities.”

Chetwynd and its outlying areas are home to roughly 7,000 people. The region provides “sustainable opportunities for security, health, safety and prosperity in surrounds that display the best of our natural environment,” which includes “virgin forests, rolling hills, snow-capped mountains, undulating fields and crystal clear lakes and rivers.”

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