December 5, 2011
With the northwest town of Kitimat prepared for one of the largest industrial expansions in the history of northern B.C., a professor from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) is poised to help the community make its transition.
Dr. Greg Halseth is a nationally-recognized leader in the study of rural and small town community change. The UNBC Geography professor and Canada Research Chair has been involved with research on northern B.C.’s communities since 1994. Dr. Halseth’s research on community diversification through industrial investment will help Kitimat prepare for the short-term population boom that will result from the construction phase of the town’s smelter expansion and the stresses that may be put on the community’s physical and social infrastructure.
Rio Tinto Alcan just announced a massive expansion and investment in the town of Kitimat, B.C. The $3.3 billion US modernization will secure approximately 1000 long term jobs, and 2500 jobs during the construction period.
“Although the immediate reaction of many to this investment is excitement,” says Dr. Halseth, “I recommend that communities approach such announcements with a critical eye. Kitimat has been a major manufacturing center in the Province for more than 50 years now. This investment by Rio Tinto Alcan secures that role for decades yet to come. However, with massive investment comes both opportunities and challenges.”
Dr. Halseth will facilitate conversations among community and industry partners—informed by his research at UNBC’s Community Development Institute (which he founded) —to help them prepare and address emergent issues and challenges.
In 2007, he facilitated a community planning dialogue to prepare for Kitimat’s proposed smelter rebuild. Next week he’ll revisit that plan, with the newly announced Rio Tinto Alcan project in mind. There will be two developmental phases—construction and operations—each with unique circumstances to consider.
“There has been an ongoing transformation of northern British Columbia’s communities through population changes, economic transitions, and industry investments,” explains Dr. Halseth. “Research through the Community Development Institute helps inform these communities, which, in turn, can help them prepare and make good decisions based on their situations. It is important to use such opportunities to develop the infrastructure and capacity needed to harness local and regional assets so they fit with community aspirations for a resilient future.”
About UNBC’s Community Development Institute: http://www.unbc.ca/community_development_institute/description.html
Greg Halseth, Professor of Geography and Canada Research Chair in Rural and Small Town Studies, UNBC - 250.960.5826
Alyson Gourley-Cramer, Manager of Communications and Media Relations: 778.349.2719Tweet