Rio Tinto Alcan reached out to Vancouver industry last Wednesday, not only hunting for contractors for its modernization mega-project but promoting local industry and the northern lifestyle to the south.
“This project will leave a lasting legacy to the province of B.C. and will contribute hundreds of much needed jobs to communities in the northwest,” said Kitimat Chamber of Commerce president Thom Meier in a press release following the event. Meier is owner of Kitimat-based 101 Industries Ltd.
More than 300 contractors from across B.C. and Canada attended the $2.5 billion Kitimat Modernization Project’s forum (KMP) at the Vancouver Convention Centre June 22. The purpose of the forum was to attract qualified workers and inform about KMP’s magnitude.
“We hope by exposing local contractors to the larger firms who will be bidding on future KMP contracts, they might be successful in becoming subcontractors,” said RTA spokesperson Colleen Nyce in an e-mail after the forum.
“Rio Tinto Alcan is committed to the long term sustainability of its host communities”
The forum began with presentations by the project’s senior management, local industry and interests like the Kitimat and Terrace Chambers of Commerce.
Afterwards, contractors networked and checked out tradeshow booths.
How qualified suppliers and contractors can access KMP opportunities was the talk of the day, and this access involved local business.
“The whole idea of the forum was so that local contractors could offer support to [non-local contractors] if they do secure work in this area,” said Meier.
He explained that some aspects of this project are so big that they surpass the expertise of businesses here.
But by supporting those who get the larger contracts, he said, local businesses can expand their repertoires. This not only prepares them to qualify for larger opportunities in the future but to expand their contact lists so work sought outside of Kitimat becomes a viable option.
“It gives us opportunities that we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” he said.
“There seems to be a lot of good opportunities for all of B.C. on the horizon.”
He noted the mining opportunities speculated to come from the Northwest Transmission Line.
At the forum, a room for local businesses with trade show booths, called zone-one vendors, was abuzz.
“We paid for out own expenses,” said Meier, who represented 101 Industries at a booth.
“We didn’t pay a fee for the spot,” he said. “This improved access.”
But access to opportunity is just the beginning.
“The modernization project is a huge drawing card, but it’s easy for local industry to be left out,” said Robin Lapointe of Lapointe Engineering, a Kitimat-based consulting firm. “The challenge for all these local companies is going to be to man-up and perform.”
And performing is worth it, said Lapointe, explaining the opportunity to reach beyond Kitimat’s boundaries is essential to maintaining the region’s economy post-KMP.
He said this is a lesson learned from the closing of Methanex and Eurocan.
“[Before] Lapointe only grew when the region grew,” he said.
Although the final dotted-line is yet to be signed off on the project, $300 million will be spent in 2011 as a “significant commitment to completing the modernization by 2014” according to an RTA press release.
“When they do, many of the jobs will continue right through the winter,” said Meier.
On that note — winter — Meier said in his presentation at the forum he talked about local lifestyles. He wanted to show those who might move here what the area has to offer.
“We understand there is going to be a transitional period for a lot of people,” he said to workers looking to come up north. “Please be cognisant to respect the people here and lifestyle choices.”
“We do have some adverse winter conditions and people need to be aware of that and deal with it.”
But he showed pictures of the mountains, ocean and rivers, and talked about leisurely activities like hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.
“There was a lot of positive feedback on the area,” he said. “We need to work together with our Terrace counterparts to get as much economic opportunity from this as we can.”
Kitimat businesses at the Forum include 101 Industries Ltd., Lapointe Engineering and TL&T Electric Ltd.