While the Site C dam project could bring in billions to the province and the Peace Region for contractors hired to do its construction if it is approved, some Peace Region business owners have said that they would like the province to ensure that the Peace Region receives a large share of these projects.
"We'd like to see a lot of local work go to the [local] people rather than people coming from all over elsewhere," said Neal Norman, the manager of Reg Norman Trucking. "We've got the know-how and the knowledge to do the work here."
The Site C project is a hydro-electric dam that is planned to be constructed on the Peace River, southwest of Fort St. John.
First Nations groups, local homeowners and others have protested the project’s impact, since some areas will be flooded if the dam is constructed.
Currently, BC Hydro is working on its environmental impact statement for 2013, which will later be reviewed by the province. This statement will not only address the physical environmental issues associated with the project, but also the socio-economic ones, such as a possible increase in crime or a need for more health care in these regions.
BC Hydro hopes to receive regulatory approval sometime in 2014.
If that approval is received, that could mean eight years worth of work for local contractors, for everything from truck hauling to road construction.
On Tuesday, approximately 30 members of the local business community met with representatives of BC Hydro at the Best Western Inn to discuss these potential opportunities.
"We've been asked by the business contracting companies to do is keep them informed as the project goes on," said BC Hydro spokesman Dave Conway.
Conway expected the province to have a significant impact.
“You're talking about a project that if certified would be one of the largest undertaken by the province in recent decades, at 7.9 billion dollars,” he said. “There are significant opportunities on local, regional, provincial scale for this project.”
At the meeting, BC Hydro discussed various dates for when they expected construction to begin on a wide variety of projects related to Site C, including the actual construction of the dam and other projects needed to make the dam work.
Conway said that approximately 500 workers would be brought in during the first year of the project for construction, which would require the construction of a work camp.
The project's workforce is expected to peak at around the fourth or fifth year of the project, which would bring the total number of workers to 1,200.
This would require another work camp that is expected to house an additional 500 people, with room to expand.
However, some raised concerns about where these workers would be coming from.
Norman said that past projects have seen workers come from outside the province come in for work projects, but leave shortly after back to their original province.
He also said that some contractors from outside of the province try to hire small businesses in town, and that these rates are half of what these employers would normally charge.
He later suggested that workers from other parts of B.C. could be brought in to help with this project.
Neel Erasy, who also attended the meeting and works in construction, also said that he would like locals to be hired.
He even pointed out a plan in the Yukon that allowed costs to be deducted from the bids of local companies vying for a project, and asked if B.C. could consider something similar.
Michael Savidant, a BC Hydro employee in charge of potential procurement for Site C, said that they hoped to hire at least 15 per cent labour from the Peace Region.
Conway later clarified that this percentage would include both local companies who have been contracted and sub-contractors hired out to larger companies.
“The issue is that this is a very highly employed region already,” he added. “Most of the people who do want to work are working. If we're drawing people from the region who want to be on this project, that means we're leaving a vacancy where they're leaving a present employer.”
During the meeting, Savidant pointed out that when selecting the companies they would hire for the project, BC Hydro would not just look at the cost, but a number of other factors.
BC Hydro is also looking at contracting Aboriginal-owned businesses for the construction.