If Don Krusel, president and CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority is right, expansion of the Prince Rupert port facilities can only be good news for northern British Columbia, including the Smithers economy.
“Over 2,000 new jobs have been created right across northern British Columbia as a result of the activity at the Prince Rupert port,” Krusel said.
“That includes extra train crews and that I know has a huge impact for the Smithers economy.”
Talk of expanding the Prince Rupert port is music to the ears of Taylor Bachrach, mayor of the Town of Smithers.
“The biggest positive benefit we’ve realized is the increased employment in Smithers associated with increased CN rail traffic,” Bachrach said.
Although 2011 was a good year for the port, Krusel, speaking to the Smithers Chamber of Commerce last week, said the future was even brighter.
“Today we are at a pivotal point in the history of the port,” Krusel said.
“We are looking for unprecedented growth.”
That growth, Krusel explained, will come as trade increases between Canada and Asia, especially China.
“The best is yet to come,” Krusel said.
An increase in traffic at the Prince Rupert terminal means an increase in railway traffic carrying goods to the port.
That, Krusel said, was good news for Smithers, noting that the local rail yard has already seen an increase in personnel to deal with the increased traffic. The increased rail traffic also means CN is improving its rail infrastructure, which also means more economic activity in Smithers.
“CN has indicated they have some substantial infrastructure upgrades planned for Smithers, to accommodate increased rail use,” Bachrach said.
Krusel pointed to two factors as key indicators of China’s future needs for natural resources, resources that Canada has in abundance.
First is the increased rate which urbanization is occurring in China. Secondly, along with that urbanization is the growth of the Chinese middle class, an estimated 35 million people join the middle class each year.
“They need resources to supply those needs,” Krusel said.
But to take advantage of those trade opportunities, the Prince Rupert port facilities will have to expand, up to five times its current capacity, according to the 2020 Gateway Vision report produced by the Prince Rupert Port Authority.
With increased trade in natural resources, Krusel said mining and exploration companies based in Smithers would also benefit through greater access to Asian markets.
The recent rezoning of the land at the Smithers airport, could also contribute to future success of resource companies based in Smithers.
“The plans for the airport are broadly linked to increased resource development in the Northwest, particularly mining and exploration, and Smithers’ strong reputation as a base for these operations.” Bachrach said.