BY BILL PHILLIPS
Northern innovation received a big boost Tuesday as Northern Development Initiative Trust unveiled $1.6 million in funding for two separate programs.
The projects will support innovation projects in traditional northern B.C. industries and key community-based strategic economic priorities. The Northern Industries Innovation Fund and the Strategic Initiatives Fund will provide up to $1.65 million annually in grant funding for projects throughout central and northern B.C.
“The pine beetle recovery account was designed to support community economic recovery for those areas impacted by the devastation of the mountain pine beetle,” said Joel McKay, the trust’s CEO, to a crowd of about 150 people at the Chamber of Commerce’s #TrueNorth2018 business conference.
Following the success of the Forest Innovation Fund, Northern Development has restructured the program with a commitment of up to $750,000 annually to create the Northern Industries Innovation Fund and support innovation projects across a variety of northern industries.
The Northern Industries Innovation Fund will provide rebate funding up to $50,000 to a maximum of 50 per cent of a project’s budget for small and medium enterprises deploying innovative technologies in industries such as mining, energy, agriculture, aquaculture and forestry.
The Northern Development Initiative Trust is a key partner in generating economic growth in central and northern B.C.,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology.
These new programs will help rural communities and small businesses diversify and create stable, long-lasting jobs.”
By supporting applied research, the development of new or improved products /services and the testing of innovative equipment or technologies, the program will help the northern B.C. businesses improve their competitiveness, generate incremental revenue and create jobs.
Eligible companies must be privately owned, incorporated, have less than 500 employees, revenues less than $100 million and be operating within the Northern Development Initiative Trust region.
Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until the annual allocation for the fund is exhausted.
The Strategic Initiatives Fund is a new proposal-based program that allows municipalities and First Nations to apply for grant funding to support significant projects that focus on long-term economic transformation and sustainability.
The program is supported with a $900,000 commitment from Northern Development with grant funding only limited by the annual funds allocated to the program, up to 80% of a project’s value.
The program allows Northern Development to support strategic projects that may not otherwise fit into its suite of programs, but that are large in scale, regional in impact, enhance a community or multiple communities’ ability to overcome economic challenges and will result in incremental capacity or strategic economic infrastructure within a municipality or First Nation.
“These two new funding programs complement my ministry’s rural development mandate,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Supporting innovation is just one way our government is ensuring the growth of diverse, sustainable economies in B.C.’s northern communities.”
The new programs are being hailed by Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen, who also sits on the board of NDIT.
“To date (the pine beetle fund) has given out $24 million to help communities that have been affected by the mountain pine beetle,” he said, adding the money has gone to a large variety of projects which points to the value of local decision-making for these funds.
“These funds have also given us the ability to have economic development,” he said. “And, annually, we have funded 50 economic development officers throughout the region.”