BY BILL PHILLIPS
It’s been a provincial organization for 40 years.
However, it’s not as well known in the North as in the southern reaches of the province … but that is changing.
The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association opened its northern B.C. office in Prince George last year.
“We were founded in the early days when family-owned companies wanted to bid on government jobs, but weren’t able to,” says Mike Davis, ICBA regional vice-president, who manages the regional office on Queensway Avenue. “They felt they should have a right to bid on it.”
The early years of the organization focused on lobbying for policies on fair and open tendering. There has certainly been success in that regard.
“Our members are working on 80 per cent of all construction projects that are happening in the province,” says Davis.
Since then, the organization, has become the voice of B.C.’s construction industry and is the oldest open shop organization in Canada. Representing the interests of more than 2,000 members and clients, ICBA is one of leading third-party providers of group and retirement benefits in BC, the single largest sponsor of apprentices in the province, and undertakes public policy research and advocacy initiatives focused on the construction sector.
Philip Hochstein started the organization in the basement and it has grown to 40 staff members.
It’s done all that without being well-known in the North, so the decision was made to open a Prince George office, which officially opened its doors in November 2015.
Since then Davis has been busy raising the profile of the organization in the North by meeting with organization members and stakeholders. In addition, it has been supportive of trades training by donating $50,000 to education institutions – $25,000 to the College of New Caledonia, $5,000 to School District 57, $10,000 Northern Lights College, and $10,000 to Northwest Community College. The money came from the ICBA 40th anniversary legacy fund.
“Last year has been building the business in northern B.C.,” says Davis. “Expanding our regional presence, getting behind getting projects to ‘yes,’ and getting discussion around the ‘yes’ community.”
It’s all about responsible resource development, he says.
“We see lots of debates from the ‘no’ side,” he says. “We’ve just opened up the door for the ‘yes’ side to have discussions.”
One of those actions was a truck rally in Fort St. John in support of liquefied national gas development that drew 650 truckers.
Over the last year ICBA worked with Fort St. John-based Energy Services B.C. (ESBC), the largest oil and gas industry association in the province and earlier this year acquired the group.
“Our presence in the northeast has grown and now we’re working through transitioning that group to the ICBA,” says Davis. “We’re connecting with a whole lot of diverse folks, from mayors and councillors to industry to community to First Nations groups, trying to wave the flag of the ICBA.”
ESBC members will evolve into ICBA members throughout 2017. As part of the transition, over the coming months Art Jarvis, executive director of ESBC, will work for the ICBA out of the current ESBC office in Fort St. John.
One of the big projects for ICBA is also the biggest in the North and, in fact, the biggest in B.C. – Site C.
“We have members working on that project,” he says. “We were really vocal around making sure that was an open site.”
In addition, the ICBA has helped the communities in the area work through some of the issues surrounding the dam.
“We’re known as a group that will stand up for issues that we believe in and our members believe in,” he says. “We try to get in front of issues.”
It’s something that the group’s founder, Philip Hochstein, was known for. Hochstein, while still advising the group, has retired.
Chris Gardner is the new president. He was executive vice-president of modular construction firm Britco, was senior vice-president of Civeo, a workforce logistics company, and worked in the premier’s office for a number of years.
“We’ve been actively vocal around promoting development, but it’s responsible resource development,” Davis says. “It’s got to be what makes sense for business, what makes sense for the environment, what makes sense for the community.
“If it’s not ‘no’ let’s get to ‘how.’”
This story originally appeared in the April issue of NewNorthBC magazine.
See the full magazine below.