The second edition of the Canada North Resources Expo is set to start its massive, heavy-duty engines.
The event is spread over four Prince George acres, encompassing most of CN Centre and the Exhibition Grounds. It was created on top of Forest Expo, an event that found itself confronting a changing industrial landscape and a wider reach into northern B.C.'s economy. In 2013 CNRE was born into its bigger, broader new life.
It was no longer just for the forest industry, but all the resource sectors of the region and it would be held every two years.
The new vision was led by a visionary partnership. The Central Interior Logging Association had been the co-ordinators of the Forest Expo event but as that organization was coming to its own close, a local contingent of people stepped forward out of that fading association and called on professional industrial event planners Master Promotions Ltd. to help. The four leaders still leading the endeavour forward are Linda Self, Rick Pattie, Stan Mitchell and Scott Hamilton working under the Resource Expo Society.
"The turnaround was unbelievable. The last time the CILA organized the event it lost a significant amount of money. When Master took it over, it was much bigger, the attendance was huge, and we made a lot of money for local scholarships and bursaries," said Hamilton, who helped guide the CILA's controlled shutdown. "That's what the local proceeds are used for: supporting the education of local students going into resource industry professions."
Hamilton said the scholarships are based on a foundation that pays annually from the interest it accumulates. More than $60,000 is in that fund now, and $18,000 of it came from the 2013 edition of the CNRE. They expect the 2015 edition to bring in even greater amounts. Self chairs the society.
She said, "Northern B.C. is bustling with activity in regards to forestry, mining, pipelining, energy generation, transportation, oil and gas, and of course the service and supply side. This event will showcase the leaders and rising stars in all of those growing industries."
Self, Hamilton and the local society does more than just administrate scholarship money.
"The Resources Expo Society maintains its ties to CNRE through membership on the show's steering committee," said Major Promotions communications director Kate Stilwell, to explain how the Prince George residents provide operational guidance to the professional event planners.
"This participation ensures that CNRE continues to be a strong showcase for the northern resources sectors and consists not only of providing input into the expo itself, but also helping to organize fun events during the tradeshow such as a poker night and pancake breakfast, with proceeds going to local not-for-profit organizations," Stilwell said.
In addition to the scholarships, some of the other local not-for-profit organizations that have gotten financial benefits from the event include the Hospice Society, the Railway and Forestry Museum, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and local sports organizations.
"As local people, we are still busting our tails to make this work, and we also get a greater show because Masters has that co-ordination piece down to a science all across Canada," Hamilton said.
"They bring a lot to the table but it is still our local table. They help us co-ordinate and build the event we want, the event we all work together to design."
This year's expo is a noticeable step forward on the programming and exhibition fronts - a condition to be expected for a nationally relevant event on a biennial schedule. The tradeshow portion inside was 80 per cent sold out as of January, so by now it is bursting at the seams.
The outdoor live demonstrations and static displays were also booked with private-sector gusto, and the 8,000 attendees in 2013 is a mark organizers intend to dwarf this year.
"A live equipment demo zone will also be part of the CNRE this year," said event marketing and operations manager Moira Pellerine. "Located outdoors, the demo zone will feature actual working machinery and big iron on display. Visitors will be able to dig, drill, lift, carry, chip, break, bore, push and cut with the equipment, just like being on an actual worksite.
"This is a great chance to learn about the advanced features and capabilities of different brands of forestry, mining, heavy construction and oil and gas equipment. The demo zone will include a pre-trip trucking competition and a roll-over simulator, presented by Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement."
Pellerine said the CNRE has already become a go-to event in the industrial world. Tourists from outside of Prince George will be travelling here to witness it, and many involved in the resource economy will use the expo as a way to meet their partners and business contacts as well as get to know Prince George all the more.
"The CNRE launched to huge accolades in 2013 and has become a must-attend event for industry representatives including forestry, heavy equipment, mining, independent power producers, biomass, resource industry professionals, transportation, suppliers and service providers, and training and employment services," Pellerine said.
One of the features causing public buzz is the appearance of Bobby and Lori Goodson, stars of the Discovery Channel's hit reality show Swamp Loggers.
"Featuring tons of big iron and all the equipment needed to get the jobs done, it will take over the CN Centre with four acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits," Pellerine said.
The expo is open to the public on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.