Thursday, May 22, 2008

The grass here sometimes does seem greener from the other side of the fence…

A tip of our Podunkian hat to a participant on hackingthemainframe, the local bulletin board here in Rupert. Someone named Sockpuppet has tracked down a much discussed but apparently little seen article in Canadian Business about Prince Rupert the port and the optics of boom times

Copies of the magazine in which the article appeared, disappeared rather quickly from local news stands, with reports of bulk buying around town scooping up most of them the day the magazine came out. We can only assume that someone has a lot of family anxious to read up on the happenings up here, or for those that subscribe to conspiracy theories, here's your chance to cook up your own theories over the gobbling up of the copies.

We here at your Podunkian portal tried navigating the Canadian Business website in the last three weeks or so seeking out an on line version, with little in the way off success, until today.

Having finally read a copy of the article thanks to the htmf entry on line, we tried a number of search engine combinations until voila, up popped the article from the Canadian Business site, posted online on April 10.

The article itself is a short “Mood of the Nation” piece, part of a series of small reports from various communities across Canada, Rupert was included in a string of cities that included Brigus, Newfoundland, Mirabel, Quebec, Kitchener, Ontario, Sarnia, Ontario, Calgary, Alberta and Quesnel, BC.

It provides a quick snap shot of how the Fairview Port project is impacting on the community, with contributions from Don Krusel of the Port, realtor Allen Moore and outreach worker Myles Moreau.

Each provided some expertise on the ports development and the issues around it, Krusel outlined how the export industry needs to modify its current make up to take advantage of opportunities in Asia and find a niche there that could be serviced through Prince Rupert.

As far as the real estate side of things went, the speculative bubble of the last few years was explored, spurred on by a declaration by Ozzie Jurock a well known Vancouver real estate analyst, who apparently has proclaimed that Rupert is set to become “one of the most important cities of the 21st century.”

He apparently followed his own advice, as he advised one participant in an "ask the expert forum" that he had just bought view properties in the Hospital area...

His of course is a bold declaration of the future for sure (and one that certainly helped fuel that speculative bubble of late) but perhaps one that is a tad premature, realtor Allen Moore suggests that we aren’t quite Fort McMurray yet and Moore explained that the Port hasn’t quite lofted us up into boomtown status in the short term.

For his part Myles Moreau provided the social conscience of the piece, expressing his concerns over the potentially fast pace of development and the various troubles that could bring to a community that has not recovered from its many hits of the last few years.

The article checking in at a mere five paragraphs, is by no means an in depth examination of the issues of how Fairview and its subsequent phases may impact on the city, but it does give a fairly good thumbnail sketch of the situation in Prince Rupert at the moment.

In case the article goes missing in action on line once again, we’ll provide a hard copy of it below, the Prince Rupert section of the on line article can be found from this link to the Canadian Business website.

The mood of a nation: Prince Rupert, B.C.
Joe Castaldo
Canadian Business Online,
April 10, 2008

Outreach worker Myles Moreau takes a drive around Prince Rupert, B.C. Moreau has worked in town for more than 20 years, having watched the northern community's economic decline first-hand. Even though he believes the port development will ultimately benefit the town economically, he's concerned growth will attract more crime.

The transformation of Price Rupert’s port has been drawing a lot of attention to the small community tucked away in northwestern British Columbia. The sleepy airport that normally receives a handful of flights a day was overwhelmed with private jets when the town celebrated the arrival of its first container ship late last year, recalls Prince Rupert Port Authority CEO Don Krusel. Calls from real estate speculators began a full two years before that, shortly after it was announced the port would be revitalized. The town is also on the radar of prominent real estate investor and author Ozzie Jurock. He’s called it one of the most important cities of the 21st century. (He also expects some spillover in nearby Prince George, by the way.)

But people who actually live in Prince Rupert have a different perspective. “The port is not making us a boom town. We’re not Fort McMurray,” says realtor Allen Moore. Prince Rupert is constrained in a few ways, not the least of which is physical: it’s on an island with a mountain smack dab in the middle of it. A total of 13 housing starts were recorded between 2005 and 2007, and access isn’t the greatest either, since the airport is located on a separate island. Upon arrival at the airport, luggage is unceremoniously tossed into the back of a truck and visitors board one of two buses that are driven onto a ferry for the 10-minute journey across an inlet to Prince Rupert.

But the town doesn’t need to become another Fort McMurray; reversing the population decline would be cause enough for celebration. (Prince Rupert, with a current population of less than 13,000, lost nearly 2,000 people between 2001 and 2006.) There are still many opportunities to be exploited, as well, such as what the shipping industry calls “back haul.” The containers coming into Prince Rupert are filled with goods, but most of them go back empty. Obviously, that’s not efficient.

“We have to move up the value chain,” Krusel says. “Figure out what the economies of Asia require and what we have to offer, and fill these containers.” Forestry towns, Krusel suggests, could use two-by-fours to build modular homes to ship to Asia. The Alcan plant in Kitimat, B.C. is already shipping aluminum ingots to Asia through Prince Rupert. Not only could back haul benefit other industries in Canada by reducing transportation times, but it will help the port attract another shipping line, Krusel says.

There are traditionalists in Prince Rupert, however, like outreach worker Myles Moreau. Sure, he wants the town to improve economically, but he’s worried about the crime that could be attracted. And, as he strolls through the downtown shopping mall with its many vacant shops, he expresses doubts about just how much the city can grow. “This used to be a park,” he says. “And look—a lot of the stores are just empty.”

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