Attraction and Retention

The prosperity of the OBAC region has long been reliant on its timber resources. However the mountain pine beetle epidemic is expect to diminish opportunities in the traditional forest sector for several decades. OBAC is developing several industrial sector strategies. These include forestry, alternative energy, mining and mineral exploration, tourism and agriculture, that are designed to diversify the economy and create more resilient communities. As well as these industrial strategies, it is also necessary to develop a strategy designed to attract and retain the workers and other residents that contribute to a diversified economy and resilient communities.

The attraction and retention strategy is important to the region for the following reasons:

  • Skilled workers are in short supply generally in Canada and North America;
  • The region has a net out-migration that has averaged almost 2000 per year over the last ten years;
  • Many people are connected to the communities and their families and would choose to stay here if jobs were available. Diversification of the rural economy and the development of employment and self-employment opportunities is critical;
  • The current lumber market downturn and future mountain pine beetle impacts on timber supply could see the loss of the skilled workers needed for the region’s future economy;
  • The region has a relatively youthful population however many young people are leaving because they are not adequately connected to the region’s educational and employment opportunities; and
  • The region has much to offer to current and prospective residents including considerable environmental assets and outdoor recreational opportunities however this is not well known outside the region.

OBAC has worked with specialists who have a wide variety of perspectives to develop strategies. This strategy incorporates learning from these sector strategies and a working group of economic development officers, social service providers, educators, and others with specialized insight into the service needs and opportunities in the region.

OBAC communities envision a future where the region’s communities are recognized as desirable places to live, learn, work, play and invest. The assets of the region, including its natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities, are well known and appreciated by current and prospective residents. The region’s young people and others are provided good opportunities to train and work in the communities. Its resources support diverse business and employment options and the needed work force is available to realize these opportunities.

Achieving the following objectives will be a major step toward realizing this vision. The four objectives are:

Objective 1.

Diversify the region’s economy and support good employment and self-employment opportunities.

Objective 2.

Retain and attract the skilled workers and professionals needed by business, government, and service providers.

Objective 3.

Improve retention of the region’s young residents and other community members by improving linkages between training and employment opportunities.

Objective 4.

Develop synergistic and cooperative opportunities for attraction and retention across all communities in the region.

The recommendations and actions have been developed based on these objectives. There are five specific recommendations and 22 specific actions. Some priority actions are listed below. A complete list of proposed actions is provided in Section 6.


Recommendation 1.

Continue to diversify and strengthen the region’s economy.


Priority Actions

  • Establish a Regional Economic Development Office;
  • Implement OBAC’s industrial sector strategies; and
  • Ensure that municipalities are supported by the province during periods of sudden economic downturns and decreases in tax revenue.

Recommendation 2.

Market the region’s considerable assets which make it a desirable place to live, work, play, and invest.


Priority Actions

  • Develop an Omineca Brand that highlights the region and community assets;
  • Develop a regional marketing program (which would be used by employers in conjunction with their specific recruitments efforts); and
  • Improve the availability of information on the region’s considerable environmental assets and outdoor recreational opportunities.

Recommendation 3.

Provide assistance to the region’s young people and other residents to access training, obtain jobs and facilitate growth in self-employment opportunities.


Priority Actions

  • Ensure that students in the region are provided excellent secondary school opportunities which are relevant both to them and their communities;
  • Identify the human resource and skilled worker needs of existing and emerging employers in the region;
  • Ensure that secondary education, post-secondary education, and training programs are well connected with present and future employer needs;
  • Develop and implement community employment strategies that will provide youth and others in the region with relevant information on training and employment opportunities and assist them in finding employment in the region;
  • Ensure employment programs allow service providers to the entire community not just “unemployed people”;
  • Create a “fair labour market” that provides employers with incentives to take on first time workers, recent graduates and apprentices. Many businesses cannot support training without additional financial support; and
  • Provide information and facilitate the development of self-employment opportunities

Recommendation 4.

Further identify and develop the services and amenities required to attract and retain young people, seniors, skilled workers, professionals, and others.


Priority Actions

  • Develop a Regional Amenities Strategy;
  • Collaborate and exchange information relevant to attraction and retention across all communities in the region;
  • Identify synergistic opportunities for First Nations and other communities in the region;
  • Use the amenities provided in Smithers and Prince George to better position the region’s smaller communities to attract and retain people. (e.g., the “two hours from service” best practices approach);
  • Develop community level youth retention strategies;
  • Assess needs and further develop the services and amenities required by the region’s growing senior population (seniors are important in their own right, but retaining seniors will also encourage their extended families to stay in the region); and
  • Consider using employment programs to improve recreational and cultural facilities, as well as day care and other social service facilities.

Recommendation 5.

Develop and implement improved service delivery models to better meet health care and education needs.


Priority Actions

  • Pilot an initiative designed to bring the courses to the people;
    • Fully utilize modern communications technology;
    • Both First Nations and rural communities will benefit;
  • Develop a strategy designed to improve the delivery of health care;
    • Use modern communications technology where possible share the education infrastructure;
    • Distance diagnosing, mobile clinics, and childhood development services are important examples; and
  • Ensure that health and education funding and services will remain in place for up to five years following major economic downturns.