Burns Lake boot camp encourages locals to get involved in big business projects

There are over $30 billion in major projects and investment opportunities planned in Northwest B.C. over the next 10 to 15 years.

A Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) lead contractor and supplier boot camp was held in Burns Lake last week.

Small business owners and contractors from Burns Lake, Houston and Vanderhoof attended.

According to NDIT, there are over $30 billion in major projects and investment opportunities planned in Northwest B.C. over the next 10 to 15 years.

Millions of dollars in goods and services are needed to support these projects and local contractors and suppliers should take advantage of the economic boom.

Renata King, from NDIT said it is about understanding what the major companies are looking for when they are searching for a contractor or supplier.

She said small business owners should ask themselves how ready is my company? And make informed decisions about the contracts they choose to bid on.

“There is a lot of action in the North with the proposed pipelines, mining and transmission line activity,” King said.

NDIT has been working on community profiles with the municipalities and economic development officers in the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako. “The profiles have been two years in the making and I think it is important to present the look and feel of professionalism in the North,” she said.

According to King, large companies are reporting that they are having trouble finding community based contractors and services and she recommended local businesses develop a website for their companies.

“You can’t just have a Yellow Pages ad. It drives me nuts to see that. So many small businesses are not on the internet. You have to remember that companies based in Calgary don’t have a Burns Lake phone book sitting on the side of their desk.”

King also said that if small businesses and contractors are going to bid on projects, they need to ensure they have access to capital.

“If you don’t plan your finances in advance, and don’t realize that businesses don’t often pay you for 90 to 120 days in some cases, you could run into a lot of trouble. For a small businesses getting a $3 million dollar contract could seem like winning the lottery, but what you don’t realize is that you may hit the wall with finances.”

Proper invoicing was also recommended. “The day your work is done, is the day you invoice,” she said.

Human resources management was also discussed and King said often companies will look at how contractors manage their employees before signing off on a contract.

“They will want to see how you manage your employees and if there is zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol. They will  want to see what your training plans are and your training records.”

Health and Safety management is also something that small businesses and contractors need to consider before bidding on contracts.

“A health and safety plan is non negotiable. It is a requirement and it is all about the documentation that you submit. You also have to be ready for a third party audit.”

Many companies have an online registration system for a preferred contractors list, however King recommended not signing up until a small business has everything organized and planned.

“You have to have a documentation process … equipment maintenance schedules and you have to show them how the work gets done, not just tell them that you can do it.  They need proof.”

King said that there is about $30 billion in projects coming online in the North over the next 15 years.

“Companies know this and they come and set up in town to take advantage of this. You as local small businesses and contractors need to fill this gap, otherwise someone else will do it for you.”

She said many companies will have a local procurement policy, and she said if a contract looks too big, locals should consider partnerships.