The economic development pie available in the North got a little larger last week. Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) has increased its annual grant allowance, and upped funding limits for projects in the North.“We’re pretty excited,” said Janine North, NDIT Chief Executive Officer. “It speaks to the vibrancy of the North.” Last month, the trust’s board of directors unanimously supported a decision to increase the annual grant allocation to seven per cent from five per cent meaning that a total of $11.4 million in grants will be available to local governments, First Nations and non-profits throughout the region in 2014.
“We’d love to hit about $11 million,” North said.
She added that the trust, established in 2005 with the sale of BC Rail, can afford to increase the grant amount, without tapping into its original fund, because its investments have been doing very well. She said the return last year was 13.1 per cent and over the past eight years the return has been about 7.5 per cent.
“The board is feeling pretty good,” she said, adding the money doesn’t to any one any good sitting in the bank. The mandate of NDIT has always been to help economic development projects in the North. Last year the board approved almost every project that came to the trust and North is hoping for more projects to come forward.
“We’re looking for groups to take advantage of the funding,” she said.
NDIT has already approved nearly $2.5 million in new funding in 2014. It has 13 funding programs that cover everything from grants to help businesses with such things as getting into the North’s supply chain, human resources, marketing, and business façade improvements. NDIT has helped with airport improvements throughout the North and has a paid intern program that focuses on getting UNBC graduates into the workforce in the North.
In addition to the increase in annual grant funding, the board of directors also approved several funding program changes in February that will mean that yet more dollars will be available to communities in 2014: Annual funding to local governments from the Economic Development Capacity Building program has been increased to $50,000 from $35,000; annual funding to local governments and First Nations to support locally based grant writers has been increased to $8,000 from $7,500; and the percentage of community hall and recreation facility projects the Trust will fund has been increased to 50 per cent from 33 per cent to a limit of $30,000.
As for the economy of the area, North says there are some trouble spots, but generally things are moving.
“I remain concerned about the Robson Valley, West Chilcotin and the Hazeltons,” North said. “But the rest of the area is scrambling just to keep up.”