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BC Chamber defends position on JumboPosted: August 18, 2012

Letter to the Editor

The following is a letter sent to Chamber of Commerce members around B.C.

As you are aware the BC Chamber of Commerce recently took a public position supporting the announcement by the government to proceed with the Jumbo Glacier Resort project.

Contained within brackets is the chamber’s statement: The BC Chamber of Commerce would like to applaud the BC Government for its foresight in approving the Jumbo Glacier Resort.

(“This project has been reviewed to death,” said John Winter, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “It’s good to see BC sending a clear signal that major projects like these will be judged on their own merits.”

The Jumbo Glacier Resort is a proposed year round ski resort located at the foot of Jumbo Mountain and Jumbo Glacier 55 kilometers west of Invermere, BC. It has been involved in a lengthy Environmental Assessment process and has taken years to get to this point.

The impact this project will have on the province will be far greater than as just a ski resort. It will further strengthen British Columbia as world class destination and substantially expand tourism revenue in the Columbia Valley.

“Where major projects are concerned, we very much hope that this is a harbinger of things to come,” continued Winter. “There are several major liquefied natural gas and mining projects that are currently in planning, and I look forward to seeing this as the start of a trend where economically crucial projects go through an expeditious and balanced review process.”)

Following this announcement the Fernie Chamber contacted the BC Chamber and expressed concern raised by one of their members regarding potential impact of this development on existing communities tourism business.  Further to this the Fernie Chamber Board also requested clarification regarding the process of the BC Chamber consultation regarding consultation with impacted chambers prior to taking a public stance.

Impact on existing business

The BC Chamber has a proven record of supporting significant projects which will benefit economic activity on a regional or provincial basis.  The economic benefits of the Jumbo developments are proven to be significant to the region and to the province.

Upon completion the resort will be relatively small at 6,250 bed units (for comparison Jumbo will be about one-twelfth the size of Whistler).  Despite this size the resort is still estimated to generate an investment of over $1 billion in the region.  In terms of actual projections the project is estimating 700,000 to 800,000 skier days on completion.  One of the clear benefits of Jumbo is the fact that the resort will be a year round resort.  This will mean that Jumbo will have a summer season of 150 days of operation with a winter season of 200 days.

The role of Jumbo as a year round, global attraction should not be underestimated.  The nature of the resort and the skiing opportunities it will present will give Jumbo a significant advantage in the increasing competitive global market for resort visitors.  Given the highly cyclical nature of the tourism industry this advantage will help the region smooth out any downturn in the global industry by retaining a world class attraction.

Jumbo Glacier Resort will have the longest season, best climate, most reliable and largest snowfall of any ski area in North America.  Further to this the resort will also have the largest vertical drop (in real powder snow) in winter and will be the only major ski area operating through the entire summer in North America

In terms of direct immediate economic benefits project proponents have estimated that we will see some $15-20 million a year in construction activity for a period of twenty years until buildout. Approximately 3,750 person years of construction employment will be created. Direct spending by visitors in the nearby communities is expected to reach $4 million annually after three years of operation. Upon completion, the resort is expected to provide 750 to 800 full-time jobs and a $20 million payroll. Taxes generated to all levels of government are estimated to exceed $12 million annually.

The Chamber does not believe this represents a threat to surrounding areas.  Experience in other jurisdictions (including Kicking Horse in BC) has clearly demonstrated that these kind of developments do not result in a negative impact on surrounding regions.  Indeed, as mentioned above $4 million in direct spending in nearby communities present a significant opportunity to surrounding regions.

Process

It has not been the practice of the BC Chamber to solicit input from chambers on specific issues prior to the issuing of a news release.

In terms of consultation on this project the chamber has been active on this file.

Generally it is important to note that the BC Chamber has been consistent in its supportive for developments that support provincial, regional and local economic development.  This is the initial lens through which the BC Chamber views projects such as the Jumbo development.

Further to this as the project was navigating the approval process the BC Chamber was approached by the project proponent to assist in expediting the decision (one that has been twenty years in coming).  At this time the Chamber approached the provincial government expressing concern over the lack of a decision and the fact that this unacceptable delay was being driven by politics rather than genuine concerns over the project.

As we became familiar with the project the BC Chamber, primarily through the District Director at the time Mac Campbell, held a number of discussions with chambers in the region on this important issue.  These included several District Meetings that were attended by BC Chamber staff John Winter and Jon Garson.

These discussions showed a clear level of broad support by the business community for this project.

It is these factors that provided the basis for the BC Chamber news release regarding the government’s decision to approve the project.

It is also important to note that a strong theme of the BC Chamber news release (copied below) following the government’s announcement was focused on process.  As the Board of the Fernie Chamber will be aware the process for approval of the Jumbo project has taken 20 years, this is despite the fact that the project has met the requirements for such a project.  Much of the hesitation is due to local and often very narrow parochial objections.

This is unfortunately a strong theme across BC and the Chamber continues to be on record as opposing these kinds of delays as damaging to the economic growth of communities and of the province.  Our support for jumbo was a reflection of the fact that the government had made a decision based on the merits of the project.

I hope this clarifies the position of the BC Chamber on this announcement.  If you, or any of your members, have any further concerns or questions regarding the BC Chambers position on this announcement then please do not hesitate to have them contact me and I will be happy to help.

Jon Garson,

Vice President BC Chamber of Commerce

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