Calgary Herald

B.C. companies see dollar signs

Smaller local firms must learn how to compete and win against global giants


PRINCE GEORGE— Canfor, Carrier Lumber, Lakeland Mills. These are familiar names to those in northern B.C.’s largest city.

But the remaining forestry players here — the sector has seen several rounds of mill closures in the past two decades — have new neighbours.

About one year ago, Calgary-based TransCanad­a Corp., one of North America’s largest pipeline companies, opened an office in this city of about 80,000, which bills itself as B.C.’s northern capital.

Trans Canada has two natural gas pipeline projects on the books whose total value is conservati­vely estimated at $9 billion, and which would employ thousands of workers during constructi­on and is expected to pour tens of millions of dollars into northern B.C. communitie­s such as Prince George in supply and service contracts.

While the liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in northwest B.C. that would need the pipelines have not been given a final investment decision from global energy heavyweigh­ts such as Petronas, Shell and Chevron, there is a kind of nervous energy in northern B.C. communi- ties about the prospect of a potential economic windfall.

“There is a tremendous opportunit­y I think … It’s quite exciting for the north,” says Stinger Welding owner Willy Manson.

The Prince George businessma­n is already in discussion­s with larger companies on prospectiv­e work for LNG projects.

Manson earlier made a foray into diversifyi­ng into work with the coal mining industry, but the energy potential dwarfs that. There are two more proposed natural gas pipelines, and more than a dozen LNG projects proposed in total, as well as Enbridge’s proposed $7.9-billion oil pipeline.

Although not all will be built (analysts say one or two LNG plants could be developed and the Northern Gateway pipeline faces stiff opposition from First Nations), the challenge for northern B.C. firms is how to get contracts.

Most northern companies are small — 10 to 40 employees — with little experience dealing with large global engineerin­g firms.

They are being warned they need to know how to get the attention of the large companies — and have in place safety certificat­ion, third-party audits and hefty liability insurance — if they want to be considered.

To help businesses in northern B.C. to bid on work for these large projects, the Northern Developmen­t Initiative Trust has been holding boot camps to help them get in the door.

Rob Dykman, whose Terrace-based company Coast Mountain Wireless provides remote communicat­ions, said you have to invest in your company to be able bid on the energy contracts.

After he attended a boot camp about three years ago, he made sure his company earned a key safety credential, the Certificat­ion of Recognitio­n, more commonly called COR. He also increased his liability insurance, and achieved third-party safety and performanc­e auditing passing grades from PICS and ISNetworld.

Dykman has also added people and equipment and is moving into a larger building, which he notes has been an “expensive propositio­n.”

However, the investment has already paid off.

He has secured a contract for an LNG project, and is bidding on more contracts.

His advice: heed the informatio­n being doled out in the boot camps.

“I hear time and time again companies saying: ‘How do you get in- volved in these LNG things?’ I say: ‘Have you gone to any of these round table discussion­s — and have you taken anything to heart?’ It’s one thing to go there and listen to the informatio­n, but unless you act on it, you are wasting your time.”

Northern Developmen­t Initiative Trust’s Renata King has delivered nearly two dozen boot camps since 2012, delivering a curriculum that aligns with the global companies’ requiremen­ts.

“They want to procure locally wherever possible. Their challenge is that some of the local business are not ready to deal with multinatio­nals, and the fact they can’t find many of them,” noted King.

She pointed out that maybe 20 per cent of businesses in the North have a website.

To help connect the big companies with contractor­s, they created supplychai­, a site that warehouses informatio­n on more than 2,000 companies in northern B.C.

King believes time is of the essence.

The timeline for a final investment decision for the first one or two LNG projects gives local companies only six months to prepare, she said. “When the train starts moving, it’s going to be moving fast.”

 ?? For the Calgary Herald ?? Coast Mountain Wireless, which installs communicat­ion equipment such as this repeater in northwest B.C., is getting more work thanks to some successful bidding on LNG (liquefied natural gas) projects in northwest B.C.
For the Calgary Herald Coast Mountain Wireless, which installs communicat­ion equipment such as this repeater in northwest B.C., is getting more work thanks to some successful bidding on LNG (liquefied natural gas) projects in northwest B.C.

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