Cover Architectural Collaborative’s team at their new Railtown office, formerly the CP/CN telecom building. Photo submitted

BUSINESS BUZZ: A look at business in Nelson from A to Z, Part 1

Darren Davidson takes over our business column with an alphabetical rundown

The Nelson Star kicks off the year with a revisitation of our business column, The Business Buzz, and a familiar face. Longtime local journalist Darren Davidson will be penning The Buzz. Davidson has been a fixture in local media and communications since the mid-‘90s, having worked with the Nelson Daily News, Weekender, Kootenay and Coast Mountain Culture magazines and Kootenay Co-Op Radio. Take it away Double D…

Hi and Happy New Year. We’ll deviate from the standard Business Buzz format of small stories on local business issues and happenings, and instead start the year off with a big ol’ round up — an A-B-C look back and forward of Nelson’s business landscape and economy, in this, the year 2020. Yup, 2020. Wow.

A — After 33 years in its past venue, Art of Brewing has a new home, in the West Arm Plaza. We’ll have a bit more on that in our next column. Still no word yet from Amanda’s Restaurant owners Wing and Gina Kwan on the North Shore diner’s reopening, following the November fire at the Villa Motel.

B — Baldface Lodge is given ‘er on a new building downtown, on Vernon and Stanley. In its 20th season, the five-star cat skiing nirvana will use the building as a new base of operations, including its burgeoning e-comm division, retail, hospitality/hosting area, offices, conference room and third storey deck.

C — Kudos to principals Graeme Leadbeater, Lukas Armstrong, Rob Stacey and the 15-person crew at Cover Architectural Collaborative for their belief in the future of Railtown, as evident by their new office at the fledging district’s gateway. Cover was recently awarded the Selkirk College child care facility project at the Silver King campus.

D — Dearly departed. Sadly, the sun has set on two shining stars from the Nelson business cosmos…Gary Ockenden and Jason (Dicky) Draginda left us late in 2019. Gary and his firm Withinsight Services worked within the public sector and with NGOs like Amnesty International. He was also an advisor with the Columbia Basin Trust.

Draginda, founder of The Ripping Giraffe and a driving force behind Tribute Board Shop, was a visionary, seeing the city’s adventure tourism sector for what it has now become. For years starting in the ‘90s, Dicky was a well known Nelson ambassador throughout North America’s outdoor industry. Both he and Gary will be dearly missed by many.

E — Economic know how. What a great resource the region has in the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership. Part of the Central Kootenay’s Community Futures network, the partnership, led by executive director Andrea Wilkey, has loads of insight, analysis and connections for anyone looking to build on entrepreneurial endeavours within the City of Nelson and RDCK electoral Areas E and F.

Here are a few stats for starters: according to the partnership’s 2019 report card, as of Nov. 30, the region has 1,466 active business licences, 510 building permits approved worth $61.5 million, and a population growth rate of 3.3 per cent between 2011 and 2016. Visit for more.

F — It’s been a brutal year for many B.C. forestry companies, due to high stumpage, tough markets, and a complex international business environment in general. That said, the 14 mills represented by the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association are fairing relatively better.

The region’s independent, specialty and value-added mills, pillars in the West Kootenay economy for over a century, are doing what the’ve done for a long time — digging in and branching out. Companies like Kalesnikoff are spending millions on the design of mass timber products: glued lam beams and cross-laminated timber that provide unrivaled quality, cost savings and less waste.

G — Granite Pointe. One of the city’s most important development projects in the years ahead, the 17-acre parcel has now been rezoned to build the 300 units over the next 10 years. Those are good jobs. But worries over Rosemont traffic, density, demographics remain. The next step? Find a developer.

H — Holy hospitality! With the revitalized Royal and Broken Hill, Nelson palates and those with a penchant for partying are seriously blessed when it comes to new places and old to tip a pint, tumbler or the scales, which is likely what we’ll all be doing if we eat out all the time. What a remarkable dining, drinking and dancing scene in this city. Mind and menu-blowing diversity.

I — Infills. The city is aiming to encourage laneway housing development. Yup, Nelson’s once famous heritage-meet-hippy ‘hoods are changing before our eyes. Contractors and building suppliers are hoppin’. The city’s second rounds of design selection for its laneway housing competition is close to complete, with three designs to be chosen in February and available to the public by March.

J — Join together. Have you heard of the West Kootenay Boundary Community Investment Co-op? With 11 board members representing Nelson/Castlegar, Arrow/Slocan/Upper Kootenay Lake, the Lower Columbia region and Grand Forks/Boundary, the organization is a member-owned association that allows its folks to invest into local businesses with an aim to promote economic, social, environmental and community projects.

K — Kutenai Landing. Also a big ticket for the city with promising implications for local trades, realtors and development professionals, the near three hectare parcel is prime real-estate in a part of Nelson that will further define the city’s character for years to come. It’s been returned to standard zoning for the central waterfront, in accordance to the City of Nelson’s Official Community Plan. The new but old rezone allows for waterfront mixed use, commercial and residential, park and recreational use, and water use zone — and a marina.

L — Local. One word. Gotta shop here in town folks. Support your neighbours and your fellow Nelsonites. Chamber of Commerce boss Tom Thomson tells it like it is: “Local businesses continue the need to be supported — they contribute approximately 25 per cent to the city’s tax base.” Chamber initiatives such as Customer Appreciation Day and the Think Local First marketing campaigns helped the cause this past year.

M — Media. A few legendary West Kootenay journalists have signed off after superlative careers. Jayne Garry of the ever-effervescent Wayne and Jayne morning show on EZ Rock has moved on after 23 years in broadcasting. She’s moving over to community relations leader at Teck, after 16 years on the show. Wayne Kelly is celebrating 20 years with the station as of this week.

Prodigious sports reporter and news editor extraordinaire Guy Bertrand has retired from the Trail Times after 27 years.

In magazines, following the retirement of founder Keith Powell, Koocanusa Publications has ceased all print versions of Kootenay Business, launched in 1985, going all digital. Cranbrook-based Kootenay Life has rolled out its third issue, with a look that’s part urban mag, part outdoor adventure.

Kootenay Mountain Culture and its coastal publication, Coast Mountain Culture have set up shop in the restored CP Rail building, home to the Nelson Visitor Centre and Nelson Innovation Centre, slated to open later this year.

N — Speaking of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce, thanks to board members Karen Bennett, Mike Borch, Tammy Darough, Tanya Finley, Scott Grimshaw, Bob Hall, Stephen Harris, Rebeckah Hornung, Randy Horswill, Sheyla Kallas, Ed Olthof, Scott Robertson and Paul Wiest for their volunteer service. The chamber’s 2020 AGM, which may see a few director positions open, is in March.

We’ll be back with the rest of our alphabetical anything-but-exact economic overview next week. Your thought for day, courtesy Main Jet Motorsports’ Kevin Westerhaug: You’ve only got one lap in this life. Make it a good one.

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Darren Davidson

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