Thriving on the North Coast
Growing our presence in BC’s Northwest
Did you know that over the last few years, we have been slowly but surely building a practice in Northwest B.C., from Smithers to the Coast? Since 2012, we have been working hard to develop relationships with most of the communities in the area, including over half a dozen local governments and a few First Nations. The approach has been gradual, beginning with the development of a strategy and action plan in 2012 and then the establishment of a shared office space in Prince Rupert in Fall 2013.
And there’s good reason to be interested in the North Coast these days. Clients in the area are undertaking a considerable amount of work. Driving this work are a variety of factors—while for years this area was depressed, it is now fairly bursting with opportunity and the need to plan and implement many large infrastructure projects. We chatted with Ryan Beaudry and Andrew Baigent about why the region is seeing such growth, their own personal connections to the area, and what Urban Systems hopes to help develop there in the future.
Andrew explains that almost immediately after deciding to focus on the North Coast, we received good traction. The reason is partly because the area doesn’t get a lot of attention from larger firms, and partly because our people have roots and connections in the North. Andrew says he sees this as a great opportunity and is very proud of helping communities that no one else is taking time to help.
“We’ve been very busy in the area, just three or four of us guys getting on little planes and making things happen. One of the cool things about Urban is that a lot of us are from small towns. This keeps us really humble—our bread and butter clients tend to be small to medium size communities, and we’re not afraid to kick tires and see opportunities that the bigger guys might pass over. Many of us have ties to this part of the Province. I grew up on Haida Gwaii, in the thriving metropolis of Masset. We’re a nice rounded team that understands the unique issues that face the North Coast.”
Community Planner Ryan Beaudry (who grew up in Terrace) explains that clients in the area appreciate that team members from Urban have a feel for the local context. He also says that he and his co-workers have been ready to roll up their sleeves and go above and beyond for clients when necessary.
“For example, two years ago in Kitimat, the municipality was very short staffed and had a backlog of projects. I had previously worked there as a summer student, so when they called up to ask for help, we didn’t hesitate. Within 48 hours we showed up to help them power through the work that had to be done. We know the community and we can help out in ways that other firms with less flexibility and history couldn’t.”
At the moment, the majority of our work in the north has centered around planning for the impacts of major projects such as liquefied natural gas facilities and associated pipelines, mining and the like. For example, we are currently helping the City of Terrace develop their first Parks and Recreation Master Plan to accommodate the growing population.
David Block, Director of Development Services for the City of Terrace, says that there is a real sense that the people at Urban Systems grasp the context of the community’s needs.
“Terrace has been pleased to work with Urban Systems on several planning projects in recent years. The people from Urban understand the realities here and have worked hard to address the specific concerns and opportunities unique to our city. Urban has established a presence in the northwest and having local offices with employees living in the region means we get service that clearly grasps our current situation”.
“The work has been very diverse but all falls under that general umbrella of helping prepare for growth,” explains Ryan.
And why is this area seeing such growth? In addition to the large projects on the horizon, which bring people in for employment reasons, Andrew says that more and more people are drawn to the Northwest because it offers an amazing lifestyle in one of the most beautiful parts of the Province at a reasonable price.
“This is a special and absolutely beautiful part of the province. The outdoor lifestyle and amazing setting that is attractive to a lot of people. We’ve met a lot of people over the last three years who have made the decision to live in the Northwest with a mindset that they will figure out the working piece later. The unbelievable access to nature and the ocean is unparalleled, it’s a dynamic region and we’re well connected to the rest of the Province by road, rail, air and ferry. The future looks pretty exciting.”
Meet the North Coast Team Members
Ryan Beaudry, MCIP, RPP
Ryan is a Community Planner in our Vancouver and North Coast offices. He grew up in the Terrace area during a period of economic recession (1990’s-early 2000’s), witnessing the downturn in the forest industry and the resulting impact of mill closures on the region. He moved away in 2005 to attend planning school, ultimately settling in Vancouver. A decade later, he is excited to be able to return home to help the North Coast communities prepare for unprecedented growth and change.
Andrew Baigent, MCIP, RPP
Originally from Masset on Haida Gwaii, Andrew is well aware of the opportunities and challenges facing North Coast communities. Andrew is passionate about First Nations Economic Development, Community Planning and Land Economics. He is committed to providing practical land use planning advice based on sound financial principles to ensure local economies thrive. Andrew understands the unique attributes of the North Coast and is focused on the health and resilience of its communities. He has seen both the “good times” and “bad times” in his hometown, and is committed to helping communities (both aboriginal and non-native) reach their full potential. Andrew was a proud Haida Dancer in the 1980s, loves the All-Native Basketball Tournament and is married with three young children – all of whom fish, camp and love the beaches of Haida Gwaii!
Jake Hughson, MCIP, RPP
Jake is a community planner based out of Fort St. John. He has worked closely with a wide variety of local governments and First Nations throughout Northeastern BC. In recent months Jake’s client base has started to expand westward. “I have deep roots in the northwest and remain very passionate about the region. I continue to make personal trips west – whether it is visiting my Mom and Dad in Smithers, helping my grandpa work the family farm near Francois Lake, or fishing the on Skeena River (and tributaries) with my brother near Terrace. I thought I would try adding business into the mix. I have done several small assignments in the region and have been making a deliberate effort to build new relationships there. I have found this to be very rewarding. It gives me another opportunity to stay connected with a place that I care a lot about”. View Jake’s profile on LinkedIn here