Logging On — An increasing number of networkers, stars and searchers have taken interest in Nelson and its surrounding communities. Salmo’s Gary Glover and sons Chad and Shane are the new co-stars of Discovery Channel’s Mud Mountain Haulers. Photo courtesy Discovery Channel

Logging On — An increasing number of networkers, stars and searchers have taken interest in Nelson and its surrounding communities. Salmo’s Gary Glover and sons Chad and Shane are the new co-stars of Discovery Channel’s Mud Mountain Haulers. Photo courtesy Discovery Channel

BUSINESS BUZZ: 2022 year in review part 3

Darren Davidson recaps the year in local biz

by Darren Davidson

N to Z in our annual review of local business wheeling and dealing. Don’t miss out on Part 1 and Part 2.

N — New jobs. There’s a heap of peeps with new gigs this year. Amongst the most noteworthy — MLA Katrine Conroy. An NDP powerhouse who’s represented this side of the Kootenays as MLA since 2005, Conroy now holds one of the most powerful positions in provincial government, moving from Minister of Forests to Minister of Finance, where she’ll oversee a projected budget surplus of $5.7 billion.

Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson now tackles parliamentary secretary duties for the Ministry of Tourism, Art, Culture and Sport. Anderson will also have a hand in leading the agri-tourism charge, which will include farm-to-gate cannabis production.

The City of Nelson’s loss was the City of Trail’s gain, when former chief financial officer/deputy chief administrative officer Colin McClure left for Trail’s CAO/CFO job. The city has since created two new positions that’ll absorb some of McClure’s jobs.

Justice Lindsay M. Lyster began serving the Kootenay Judicial District last year, having moved from Whistler. Lyster was the president of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association for many years and has frequently acted for social justice organizations.

O — Online. BC Stats’ Kootenay Connectivity Benefits Study says region-wide internet connectivity will generate $281 million in economic benefits over the next two decades. Since 2020, the province has invested $19.4 million in 24 projects aimed at connecting 10,500 households to high-speed internet. Considering the number of us now working remotely, and the fact employers are finding remote work options are a great way to retain employees, how many folks stuck on their big city keyboards would prefer to move their online gigs, sweats and slippers to a home office with a view of the Slocan River or Elephant Mountain?

P — Post Secondary. Where would the region be without Selkirk College? Over 2,800 full-time students. Eight campuses. The city’s third largest employee. Over 60 nationally recognized programs. Selkirk’s new president and CEO, Dr. Maggie Matear, marked her first year on the job since moving south from Yukon University with groundbreaking ceremonies for two major student housing projects at the Castlegar and Nelson campuses — increasing on-campus housing at Selkirk by 71 per cent, with 209 new residential units slated for beds and heads by September 2024.

Still in the post-secondary sector, Baker Street’s Kootenay Columbia College of Integrative Health Sciences — formerly Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences — was purchased by Keshav Singla last fall. Singla has a background in accounting and business management and is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant.

Q — The Quad. Beyond the high-tech addition of the pub’s outdoor picnic table butt pads, Whitewater’s new chairlift line can’t help but stir the shredding senses of even the most cynical localist. The once-little resort is growing at a prerequisite pace given its surge in pass holders and holidayers. The new lift, a quad chair, will open for the 2023-24 season.

R — Real Estate. In the last nine months the average Canadian home price has dropped 22.4 per cent. But in smaller communities the big pandemic price gains and lower inventory have kept prices high. Further, the Bank of Canada has hiked interest rates by four percentage points since March, while the nation’s banking regulator wants new mortgage guidelines aimed at nixing least-qualified borrowers. The Association of Interior Realtors reported in December that the average Kootenay home price has dropped 12.4 per cent since this time last year, to $512,200. The number of homes sold has dropped 50.4 per cent.

S — Spotlight. The TV folks who brought you Gold Rush, Moonshiners and Deadliest Catch have introduced the blue collar reality TV masses to Salmo’s Glover Logging. Gary Glover and sons Chad and Shane are the new co-stars of Discovery Channel’s Mud Mountain Haulers, currently in its second season.

Early in the pandemic, Canadian designer Evan Biddell set up shop on Ward Street. Biddell was crowned the first winner of the Bravo channel’s Project Runway Canada, in 2007. He won $100,000, a portfolio photo shoot with L’Oreal Paris and a spread with Elle Canada magazine. Evan’s since moved back to Toronto.

On the tech front, Nelson’s Blaine Cook was a founding engineer for Twitter, a digital guru for the Conde Nast magazine empire — think Vogue, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, GQ, Vanity Fair and Wired — and a crusader for Twitter’s new nemesis, Mastodon.

T — Tourism. The numbers from 2022 suggest that executive director Dianna Ducs, her 12-member board of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism and its 337 partner businesses have emerged from the pandemic’s trial by fire. NKLT revenues derived from the region’s hotel, motel and holiday rental locations were up 40 per cent last year versus 2021.

The figures provide a telling glimpse of the tourism sector’s big economic impact on businesses of all sorts. Accommodators from Nelson to Kaslo to the East Shore generated roughly $30 million in room rentals last year. That doesn’t include the amount spent at local bars, restaurants, retailers, gear and beer stores, gas stations and galleries. NKL estimates we had 200,000 visitors last year.

The tourism leadership group also notched two impressive firsts amongst all the province’s destination marketing organizations (DMO). It’s Kootenay Lake Road Trip App has over 3,500 downloads, and its new podcast series — 10 episodes in all — is the first podcast of all B.C.’s DMOs. The next challenge: ensuring that visitors get what they come for — lots of space, unique experiences and well-maintained tourism, culture and art attractions. NKL will release the findings of its Sustainability Assessment in the next month.

U — Unemployment. As of last month, the Kootenay unemployment rate of 2.9 per cent was lower than the provincial rate, and national rate too. Three out of every 100 people who can work, aren’t. That’s it. Statistics Canada says that means 77,300 are earning a pay cheque, and 2,300 were looking for work, out of a total population of 141,200.

V — Vroom. The noise coming from chain saws, mining drills and mills is the sound of money changing hands and everyday folks paying the bills. Few of the region’s resource sector jobs and local tax revenues will be quickly replaced by anything else. From the Argenta slopes to Cottonwood Lake, resource sector trades folk and business owners aren’t villains. Neither are protestors. It’s the provincial government that makes the rules, and Big Business that lobbies the government.

Change starts by educating ourselves as to what’s really happening, then voicing your opinion at the ballot box, cash register and the Letters To The Editor section. But consider: In his new book, Where To From Here: A Path To Canadian Prosperity, former Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau writes that out of 36 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) measured from 2000 to 2019, Canada rated just 25th in productivity growth.

The resource sector contributes one in every five dollars Canada makes. There are big decisions to come, and big consequences.

W — Well Being. With the loss of at least four doctors in the last few years, it’s estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 Nelson and area residents are without a family physician.

X — As in X marks the spots. The city and its surrounding communities have become troves of entrepreneurial spirit. There are so many little locations well worth supporting, or at very least knowing. To name just a few: Levity Gallery, Horse and Snake, Sprout, Taylor and Mae, Big Dee’s, No. 6 Coffee, Waits on Nelson, Charcuterie Totoche, Salmo’s Erie Creek Brewing, Balfour’s Gill and Gift and the Old World Bakery. They’re everywhere. Remember — seven out of every 10 dollars spent locally stays here.

Y — Yesterday. It’s gone. Move on. Greek philosopher Plato said that brooding in the past makes you depressed. Worrying about the future makes you anxious. Live in the now and get ‘er done.

Z — Zeabin. Dressed in a black leather jacket he’s had since helping out on the Nelson set of Steve Martin’s Roxanne, local mayoral candidate and lifelong local Mike Zeabin said it best when he had the stage at the Nelson and District Chamber’s mayoral candidates debate. Asked not what Nelson can do for you, but what can you do for Nelson. Same goes for Salmo, Slocan, Kaslo, Riondel and far beyond.

Good luck in 2023 everyone.