On Tuesday the Prince George Chamber of Commerce is launching the Consider Prince George campaign.
The media campaign is designed to encourage new Canadians living in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island to consider relocating to Prince George.
The campaign - a combination of print advertising, TV ads and social media - showcases the stories of new Canadians who have successfully settled in Prince George and made the city their home.
Consider Prince George is promoting the career opportunities, quality of life and affordability of living in Prince George.
The program is building on similar work already underway by Initiatives Prince George to promote intraprovince, interprovincial and international immigration to the city. It is also tapping into the excellent suite of services provided by the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society for new Canadians.
The Central Interior Logging Association is also working to attract workers with the specific skills needs for the forest sector.
Immigration will be a critical component to meet the demand for skilled workers in the north, particularly if some of the proposed megaprojects in the region proceed. In fact, the success or failure of some of the proposed projects may hinge on the availability of a skilled workforce.
The Prince George business community, Initiatives Prince George, the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society and the Central Interior Logging Association all deserve credit for having the foresight to begin the recruitment process now, ahead of the potential megaproject boom.
But the reality is, despite the good work of these local agencies, Prince George is a hard sell.
According to statistics gathered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, between 2003 and 2012 Prince George attracted between 105 and 180 new permanent residents per year - or about 0.1 per cent of total new permanent residents in Canada.
Canada's large metropolitan areas have a disproportionate draw when it comes to new immigrants. In 2012, 59.5 per cent of new permanent Canadian residents settled in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Alberta, with the massive economic draw offered by oilsands development, was only able to attract 14 per cent new permanent residents in 2012 -and most of those to Calgary and Edmonton. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the heart of oilsand country including Fort McMurray, has only succeeded in drawing 130 to 852 new permanent residents per year in the 2003 to 2012 time period.
It's clear when immigrants are choosing where to settle in Canada, jobs and the cost of living are not the biggest motivating factors.
Vancouver and Toronto are the two most expensive cities in Canada (Vancouver is the most expensive city in North America and 37th most expensive city in the world, according to a 2012 survey by The Economist). Montreal is the cheapest of the big three, but also has the highest unemployment at 8.3 per cent in September. But all of the big three cities had average to above-average unemployment in September.
From a purely economic point of view, Prince George, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina or Saskatoon would all make better choices than Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver -they all have lower unemployment and lower costs of living than the big three.
Simply advertising that Prince George is cheap and a has jobs will not be enough to attract significant numbers of new immigrants -or anyone else, for that matter.
Getting the right message about Prince George's quality of life to the right people will be critical.
Many people will simply never want to live here, no matter how cheap the housing or how good the job. Finding the right demographic which values the access to the outdoors, short commutes, affordable housing and other qualities offered by Prince George more than the conveniences and services offered in a large city is key.
Who those people are, where they come from and why are questions the city and its employers need to find answers to quickly. But the fact that they are already beginning the process of asking the questions speaks well for the city's future.
-- Associate news editor Arthur Williams