VANDERHOOF - With mining leading a potential resource boom, Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen believes his community is on the cusp of something big.
"My hope is that we'll see the next 10 years as a real time of good, consistent growth," he said. "But not just growth, it will be building capacity into the community."
Over the past five years about 500 people have moved to the town west of Prince George on Highway 16, but Thiessen said he thinks that rate of growth could double and the community could add 2,000 people in the next decade.
"We didn't have a whole lot of new industry come into the community in the past five years," he said. "When we see some of the gold mines coming in, some of the manufacturing that's happening, the New Gold assay office where they're employing 30 people. All those things add to the diversification our economy."
The District of Vanderhoof's current population is just under 5,000, so Thiessen's projection of nearly 30 per cent growth will require some planning.
Thiessen said he and council have heard from businesses who said it's been difficult to attract senior personnel. In some cases companies have been running shuttle services between Prince George and Vanderhoof to get people to work.
Vanderhoof's plan to build a pool, which passed a referendum on Saturday, is one step to make it a more attractive place for families to live.
"When you're going out and looking for engineers, police officers, healthcare workers, they all want to have certain qualities in a community," he said. "More and more it's starting to be individual sports."
Thiessen subscribes to the philosophy that jobs are only part of the equation to a thriving community, he believes another key component is a family-friendly setting.
"We know that we'll have plenty of jobs across northern British Columbia, now what we need to do is to make sure we have jobs that will attract families," he said.
The pool is one aspect of the capacity building Thiessen is hoping to achieve, but the district is ahead of the game in other areas. For instance the community is home to 15 doctors, which means it isn't dealing with chronic shortages of physicians like in neighbouring municipalities.
"It shows the enthusiasm and ability of the community to find solutions," Thiessen said. "These are all homegrown solutions that have taken plan."
The number of doctors actually outnumber the RCMP officers in town. The Vanderhoof detachment has 11 members, compared to 14 in Burns Lake and 23 in Fort St. James, despite having a higher call volume than either of those two communities.
Sgt. Jason Keays said the officers have to prioritize their calls and have implemented a prolific offenders program to target those who are causing the most problems in the community and in some cases getting them help to deal with addictions issues.
In addition to mining projects like New Gold, Thiessen said Vanderhoof can benefit from other projects which are in the final stages of approval like the Nechako white sturgeon recovery facility, which could start construction as soon as this summer.
"It will bring in a totally separate value into our community," he said, noting its educational and ecological value.
The facility, which is awaiting funding from the Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund, will help to re-populate the giant fish in the river after stocks have declined dramatically in the last four decades.
The mayor is also hopeful CNC will follow through with plans to build a new campus and that the newly rebranded YMCA of Northern BC will offer more programming in Vanderhoof.
"Incredibly exciting for Vanderhoof to have all the opportunities that come along with the Y and what it has to offer," he said.