The B.C. Natural Resources Forum drills deep into industries derived from the land like forestry, mining, petroleum, natural gas, agriculture, fisheries and tourism.
Those who gather at the annual event are some of the primary figures in government, major corporations, First Nations, goods and services delivery, environmental protection, academia, trades and other stakeholder groups.
This year's forum runs Jan. 22-24 and as always it is held in Prince George at the Civic & Convention Centre.
Chief organizer Dan Jepson of C3 Alliance Corp. has attended all 15 of the past forums and for the past five has been the lead coordinator. He doesn't live in Prince George but insists this is the only place he would consider holding the event created by then-MLA Pat Bell.
"This has to stay in Prince George. That's one of the secrets of its success," Jepson said. "I was just telling (Prince George mayor) Lyn Hall about this not long ago. I was showing him the speakers' list and said if you got this same program with the same 48 speakers (at the Vancouver Trade & Convention Centre), what happens is, people arrive, their ties are very tight and their skirts are perfect, they are on their panel for their one hour, they stay and get scrummed for 10 minutes, and they leave. The delightful thing and the sweet spot with Prince George is people are more relaxed, the majority of our keynote speakers stay for their one if not both days and there are incredible opportunities for the delegates to interact in a positive way with First Nations, business and government leaders. That's really the most important part of it."
Another consideration in Prince George's favour is the isolation, used as a positive trait. In major urban centres, even the delegates leave the main event when their key topics aren't in the spotlight. They go home or back to the office after their items of interest. But in Prince George, interest and active attention are sequestered and it is in a city where their topics are the everyday reality of the population.
"Another very unique sweet spot, it's a fascinating fact that shocks me, is we will see mining people tell us that the best talks were the forestry panel, and the forestry people will come to us and say the best talks were energy, because what traditionally happens is, if you're in forestry you only really go to forestry conferences. You never hear anything about mining or natural gas or those types of other things. So that ability to cross-pollinate between sectors, academia, government, First Nations, is just... you can't underestimate the value of that."
There is a monetary value as well to the Prince George region. Economic studies show that the forum pumps about $2 million into local pockets through delegate impacts like hotel rooms, meals, and socializing but also through organizational impacts like event planning staff, communication materials and Civic Centre services.
It would be easier from an organizational standpoint to host this event in Vancouver or Victoria, or even Edmonton or Winnipeg. The major players of government and industry are more centralized in those places. But the ability for Prince George to be focused hosts, and the delegates and VIPs swimming in the flow of the event, makes for especially meaningful interactions. The results of all the side meetings, casual encounters, surprise visits, etc. has a value that goes beyond emotion or intellect and may have an impact on the nation's gross domestic product. Even the coffee breaks are designed to encourage a deal getting done.
"Registration so far is tracking 15 per cent above last year's record of 925 delegates, so it's phenomenal," Jepson said. "As federal minister Carr (Minister of Natural Resources James Carr was a speaker in 2018) said last year, this is the largest and most important natural resources forum in Western Canada and I'm just delighted that it continues to be hosted in Prince George."
The forum this year has in excess of 70 booths in the trade show area, optional field trips and workshops for delegates, the True North Business Forum the day before hosted by the Prince George Chamber of Commerce, associated discussions by Clean Energy BC, Share BC, the Celebrate The North evening reception, the Ministers' Breakfast, a banquet, six keynote speakers from the gamut of resource-based business including premier John Horgan and federal minister Amarjeet Sohi, and more than 40 other well-positioned speakers making up the panels that will speak to the latest information affecting Canadian industry.
One of those panels will have six provincial ministers at one time, from all the portfolios governing natural resources and the First Nations portfolio that plays a central role with all of them.
To register as a delegate to this year's BC Natural Resources, click the registration tab on the forum's homepage. A range of prices reflect the range of ways you can participate.