Local companies ready to work with incoming industrial interests now have a massive website working for them.
Northern Development Initiative Trust has been building their Supply Chain Connector database since May. On Monday they flicked the switch, making it live for the public. Inside it is a catalogue of almost 1,100 companies large and small who believe they have something to offer the bigger corporations behind the billions of dollars in incoming industrial projects - everything from pipelines and power developments to coastal shipping and subterranean resource extraction.
These bigger corporations were involved in constructing the database, giving large amounts of input on what they wanted for an effective search, as they combed the internet for goods and services in this region. NDIT's business development director Renata King said these corporations put a lot of value in buying their supplies as close to their project as possible, to save logistical costs.
"We've been very clear in who can be in this database," said King. "It is only for those businesses located within the northern region. No exceptions. When a business signs themselves up for the database, it comes to us first and we have flags built into the system that wave to us if the company is not actually in the north."
A call went out during the spring and summer, using industrial communications lists and the economic development officers of the northern region. Everyone from caterers to bridge builders responded, providing a comprehensive profile of the features they have available - if they have safety certifications, if they are bondable, if they are First Nations-affiliated, if they are accredited by recognized associations, their employee profile, their areas of proficiency and so on.
This database has dozens of headings, searchable keywords and search refinement categories so industrial officials can easily drill into the data and get exactly what they want. It is also a database built for smartphone and tablet use, in case someone out in the field or on the road suddenly requires a certain tool, part or skill in a hurry.
About 30 databases were examined for best practices by NDIT, which contracted website builder Greg Prosser of Sticky Wicket Designs.
Now it stands as a unique model, said King, that other parts of the province or other jurisdictions beyond B.C. may want to mimic.
Within two minutes of the site going live, Rupert Potter, the United Kingdom's consul general in B.C., was inquiring about how U.K. business interests could best use the site. Less than 30 minutes later, the Business In Vancouver media group had broadcast the launch of the database to its online audience, and a company in the Yukon emailed an inquiry about getting listed in the database. Not without an active office in northern B.C., was King's response.
The site was also built so, in time, anyone who does a Google search for a particular company in the region will be led to the profile on the database as part of an attempt to consolidate the region's industrial information.
There are also system processes for ensuring the data listed by each company is reasonably current. Being listed in the catalogue comes with some obligations to maintain the profile, so the database keeps its credibility.
"The intent is to drive industrial attention to northern B.C. business, drive them through the portals we have set up, and also to track the online activity for our local companies," she said. "This will help them refine their profiles, maximize the attention they can get from the outside world, and it is always going to be a work in progress."
The Supply Chain Connector database is available at the NDIT homepage (www.northerndevelopment.bc.ca).