Chamber optimistic for business activity next year

Coastal GasLink expected to balance mill closures

Canfor’s series of temporary mill closures over the past year has had an effect on the business community but the ramp up of Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline project has helped restore a balance, says Houston and District Chamber of Commerce president Darrin Super.

And next year promises more activity tied to the Coastal GasLink project as it focuses on the start of laying pipe.

“When there is a temporary closure of any primary industry in a community, all sectors will be affected,” noted Super of Canfor’s temporary closures which began in late 2018.

At the same time, “we have started to see activity in our community regarding Coastal GasLink. The contractors and employees want to be engaged with the community,” he added.

Coastal GasLink has already been taking delivery of pipe in the northeast, where the pipeline will start, and near Kitimat, where the pipeline to supply natural gas to LNG Canada’s liquefied natural gas plant, will terminate.

There’s no specific date as to when pipe will start arriving in Houston via rail from a facility in Saskatchewan but more will be known in early spring, say Coastal GasLink officials.

Work leading to the opening of two large work camps south of Houston is also underway as the company gears up to start laying pipe.

All that is leading to a rise in local jobs of various kinds attached to the needs of project activity.

Super said the chamber is also looking forward to the spring 2020 of visual and other improvements to the downtown core.

“We believe it will have a positive effect on the community and will be beneficial to the business community. The businesses on 9th Street and surrounding areas will face many challenges during the constructing, and we would like to remind the customers to continue to support those businesses during that time,” he said.

Super said it is important to be optimistic and to support local businesses, clubs and organizations, all of whom who contribute to the community in various ways.

“As a resource community, we have faced many ebbs and flows in our economy and have always pulled together when in need,” he said.

“By supporting our businesses, they can support local groups that may ask for donations. As our gift certificate slogan says, ‘Keeping your town in business, by keeping your business in town.’”

The chamber itself is ending the year on a solid note thanks to the renewal of tourism and economic development services contracts with the District of Houston.

“We have an excellent working relationship with the District of Houston and look forward to working with the District of Houston in the future,” Super said.

Conversations with Houston merchants about how the year has shaped up reflected the impact of Canfor’s closures but also anticipation of a boost as the Coastal GasLink project gears up.

Mike Tran from Mike’s Audio said business this Christmas season is about at the same level as 2018.

But he has noticed a dip because of the one day a week the Canfor mill has been closed since fall.

“Not only the mill but also the those in the bush,” he said of contractors who supply fibre to the mill.

And he’s optimistic about the growing impact of Coastal GasLink.

“I think it’s going to be a good year,” said Tran.

Kirk Vandenbrink says a specific situation affected business this year at Countrywide Sports — the delay until the opening of the arena until the first week of December because of a delay in the installation of a new refrigeration plant.

“Usually we have a very busy November. But this year it has been very, very slow,” he said of skate and ice sports equipment sales.

Vandenbrink was a bit hesitant in looking forward into 2020 but did note that some sectors of the business community, in particular restaurants, are pointing to increased activity tied to the Coastal GasLink project.

“But overall I think it will be good for the community,” he said of the pipeline project.

The arrival early next year of pipe for the project will bring a physical and psychological boost to the community, Vandenbrink added.

Miake Elliott says business at Pawesome Advenutre has been good this year, specifically because she’s brought in product lines that have broadened her store’s customer base beyond Houston and area.

A specific brand of socks, ones that come with a lifetime guarantee, have been a big seller, she said.

“With that guarantee, they bring in a sock with a hole in it, they get a replacement,” she said.

“Also dog stocking stuffers. They’re selling well,” Elliott added of her Christmas sales.

As with other merchants, Elliot says the temporary Canfor closures have been balanced out by Coastal GasLink, something she predicts will continue into 2020.

Darrin Super at Bulkley Valley Home Centre says sales in some product areas have fallen over the Christmas season, a situation he attributes to the Canfor closures.

“Traffic has been down. And it’s power tools. Those sales have been affected,” Super added.

Overall, Super is looking forward to the Coastal GasLink boost, anticipating an increase in business from the project’s direct contractors and their subcontractors.

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