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Powell River Municipal Airport. Dean Allchin photo.
Among Powell Rivers economic
strengths are a solid employment base in primary industries, especially
in paper manufacturing and in limestone quarrying. Powell River
has many key elements in place for business and industry. Along
with an excellent lifestyle, the community offers specific advantages
to a business considering locating in Powell River. The largest
employer, NorskeCanada Ltd, is a private company which purchased the Pacifica Papers mill (who in turn had purchased the pulp and paper division of MacMillan-Bloedel Ltd) in 2001.
The natural resource base in Powell River
offers excellent potential for mariculture, forestry, tourism and
mining industries to continue to develop. The region also has the
physical assets needed to expand tidewater access, providing deep
sea access to increase the communitys light industrial, transportation
and distribution roles.
As late as into the early 1980s, "the mill" was the centre of the wheel of Powell River's economic livelihood around which the social and financial circle turned - as the mill experienced difficulties so too did the town. But with the purchase of the mill by Pacifica Papers and the diversification borne first out of necessity and subsequently out of the interest and curiosity of both established and new inhabitants forced to think outside the [paper] box, Powell River has been able to come into our own on the forefront of British Columbia's coastal communities.
Industries dependent upon the rich natural resources available in the Powell River area - shellfish and salmon farming, forestry, mining and of course tourism - continue to grow and mature, but Powell River has much more to offer and many advantages over other BC or coastal locations for businesses thinking of relocating.
Forestry, Tourism, Mining, Fishing
The forest industry had its beginnings in Powell River during the 1880s when logging was the principal activity. Logging continued to open the area up for settlement and led, eventually, to the construction of a pulp and paper mill in 1910 by the POWELL RIVER COMPANY. Since then, the mill has had a dominant effect on the economic and social structure of the community. Powell River grew as a single-industry community dependent for its employment on the forest industry and predominantly the mill. Economic diversification has broadened opportunities both for work and for business. The employment impact of the forest industry is seen clearly through direct and indirect employment. The forest industry also creates jobs indirectly through the purchase of services and goods within the community.
The single largest employer in Powell River, NorskeCanada Ltd. operates a pulp and paper mill in the Townsite where they employ approximately 730 people at the end of 2002. The mill produces 455,000 tonnes of groundwood paper annually 285,300 tonnes of newsprint plus 169,900 tonnes of specialty papers on three modern paper machines, for commercial printers and publishers in North America and Latin America. The company is a leader in making lighter basis weight papers, which require less fibre to produce than standard weight papers. The result is reduced use of raw materials, chemicals and energy and lower environmental impact per newspaper produced.
The community has long been affected by the volatility of the forest industry. In the past five or six years, however, Powell River has discovered itself to be more resilient economically. Now, fewer effects are felt as changes occur in the mill; clearly a sign of a diversifying economy.
6270 Yew Street
Powell River, BC V8A 4Z7
Tel (604) 483-2900
The Powell River Region provides many services and facilities for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Its geography provides natural facilities for the year-round pursuit of outdoor recreation such as mountain climbing, hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, charters for salt and fresh-water cruising or fishing, hunting, scuba diving, sailing, canoeing, photography, water skiing and so much more.
In addition to the natural resources there are facilities in the region for golfing, curling and many indoor sports at the multi-use Recreation Complex. There are dozens of active recreational leagues and sports teams for all ages and skill levels. As the local economy continues to diversify, and the tourism sector continues to grow, there continue to be a range of business and employment opportunities.
Metallic and non-metallic mineral activity in the Powell River region is focused on Texada Island, although exploration activity is active from time to time on the Powell River mainland. Texada Islands limestone quarries are the largest and most important in British Columbia. In fact, Texada is home to one of the few commercial limestone deposits on the entire west coast of North America, and the only one being mined. The three quarries on the island produce raw material for Vancouver and US markets. Future reserves of the rock on Texada Island are estimated to be in excess of 300 million tons. At current extraction rates these reserves should provide employment for many more decades.
While it may account for a small number of workers, this industry contributes more disproportionately to the regional economy than several others, primarily because of high wage rates. This economic strength provides a strong economic backbone for Texada Island with significant trickle-down employment for Powell River as a whole.
Fishing and Mariculture
The waters surrounding the Powell River region are rich with many forms of marine life. The community is home base for many commercial fishers who fish the colder waters to the north as far as Prince Rupert and the Queen Charlotte Islands for halibut, herring, salmon and other commercial species. The local industry is well supported by local fishers with a willingness to diversify the fishery, and to explore the production of value-added products that make better use of the resource. The Powell River Community Futures Development Corporation has been actively involved in this evolution of the market. They have spearheaded a new completely new fishery for the varnish or savoury clam and are exploring the possibilities of opening up other new fisheries such as whelk.
Sport fishing in the area is quite strong, but continues to build after the challenges of the 1990s on the west coast. Excellent hatchery programs have been invaluable in this regard. In addition to good salt water sport fishing, local lakes all provide exceptional fresh-water fishing, particularly for cutthroat trout. Many locals consider our lakes to be one of the best-kept secrets in the area.
Paradise Valley agricultural area. Dean Allchin photo.
Historically Powell River has enjoyed periods of strong agricultural activity, despite a large proportion of poor soils to most easily accessible land in the area. Because of the geographical isolation, some original farm operations grew out of necessity, only to dwindle in size, number and focus with the advent of regular delivery of foodstuffs from the Lower Mainland in the 1960s. However, many people farm for the lifestyle, running sheep, cattle or micro dairy operations along with garden produce locations. Hobby farming is a pleasant and satisfying pastime not usually available to semi-urbanites in other close-to-Vancouver areas, and one in which Sunshine Coasters indulge regularly. Of course, the blackberries of the region are also very important, both for their annual contribution to culture via the Blackberry Festival held every August on Marine Avenue, but also as identified as a potential agricultural export of the future.
Self-employment continues to be a growing sector. Entrepreneurial spirit and independent natures drive this force. Statistics from 1998 showed that Self-employment income made up 3.4% of the total source of income in the Powell River District Municipality. The Self- Employment Assistance Program through Human Resources Canada and administered through Community Futures continues to offer opportunities to individuals who are interested in pursuing this style of employment.
This sector, too, is a large contributor to the overall economy of Powell River, as is common throughout British Columbia. With our excellent Internet accessibility, Powell River has become a draw for individuals and companies conducting business remotely or involved in software development or e-commerce related fields. Powell River has made a commitment to developing and attracting high tech business to our region through such initiatives as the Regional Broadband Conference and through the start-ups of several locally and federally funded connectivity or e-commerce organizations.
In addition, health and fitness focussed services are in high demand in Powell River. Our situation in one of BC's most unspoiled yet accessible wilderness playgrounds means a constant demand for recreation services, and our seniors population will continue to create the need for workers in the physical and mental health care fields.
Due to our long history of working in the forests, visitors should not be surprised that value-added wood specialty products is on the top of our small manufacturing list. From art pieces to furniture, BC's coastal communities are learning to enhance the value of the resource extracted from their community landbases. Growing in use and development is also Texada Island's excellent quality limestone, quarried in three separate sites on the island mainly for export. And of course, anything that can be produced locally for recreational consumption - boats, fishing gear, etc - is readily sold to both locals and guests in the region.
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