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Houston’s mayor makes pitch for economic assistance

The forestry-dependent community in northwestern B.C. is about to lose its major employer
Mayor Shane Brienen

Forest industry giant Canfor is closing its sawmill in Houston in April, citing high operating costs and a uncertain fibre supply. The closure will put more than 300 Canfor employees out of work in the small northwestern community and affect many more who cut and truck the logs to the mill. Houston mayor Shane Brienen states the case for the community’s future.

By Shane Brienen

Mayor, District of Houston

The economic realities of today are not the economic realities of a decade ago.

Nor will they be the economic realities 10 years from today.

To ensure forestry communities continue to grow and thrive, we must engage now in building up the people and opportunities of the future.

Recently, I had the opportunity to join other representatives from the region to meet with our provincial counterparts in Victoria. During these meetings, we discussed various topics, including the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance and, of course, the future of the forestry industry at home in Houston.

I personally attended several meetings with a variety of elected and un-elected officials to propose the outcomes we would like to see for our community–building a sustainable and diverse economy in Houston.

One of the biggest challenges facing forestry communities today is adapting to a rapidly changing environment without adequate long-term investment in transitioning local economies.

Although this is not a new challenge, it is becoming increasingly pressing. We recognize the investments this Government is making in supporting forestry communities through challenging times, and we see a viable path forward for Houston. However, their partnership is critical to realizing this vision.

The Morice Timber Supply Area is one of B.C.’s top producers, having contributed more than $1.2 billion in stumpage fees to the province since 1980.

Despite this, the Ministry of Forests has relocated significant team members to other communities. Coupled with this, other public services in our community have also been drastically reduced since 2001.

We believe that the province’s proposed decentralized model will help bring back jobs and workers to Houston. Additionally, with a deep knowledge and expertise in the resource sector, plus the availability of land and resources, Houston is uniquely positioned to become the hub of value-added products and services. This presents a significant opportunity for our community to leverage its strengths and contribute to the economic growth of the region. We believe that by tapping into our potential, we can create a diversified and sustainable economy for Houston and the surrounding areas.

We have identified strategic opportunities to pursue a new vision and pathway to long term success for Houston, our residents, and the entire region.

However, to achieve our goals, we need support. We need the support of our community, as well as that of Victoria and Ottawa. We urge you to join us in this endeavour and help us create a diversified and sustainable economy that benefits Houston, the region, and the province as a whole.

Together, we can build a brighter future. We are thankful to the provincial leaders and staff members who spent time with us. The level of engagement and thoughtfulness was evident, and we greatly appreciate the follow up opportunities we have been provided. As stated above, we need their support.

Houston’s future is not tied to one industry. Instead, it depends on the collective efforts of diverse partners who come together to solve challenges through new ideas and bold actions.

By fostering partnerships and embracing innovation, we can unlock the full potential of our community and create a brighter future and shared prosperity for Houston and all of British Columbia.