Burns Lake diversification

Burns Lake Band Chief Albert Gerow construction facility one step closer to reality.

Burns Lake Band Chief Albert Gerow brought back good news from Vancouver regarding a potential construction project in Burns Lake. As reported in the Lakes District News on Oct. 31, 2012, Gerow had commissioned Vancouver accounting and consulting firm, Meyers Norris Penny LLP (MNP), to do a feasibility study for a work-camp construction facility.

“The feasibility study came back positive,” Gerow said.

Tentatively named ‘First Choice Camps’, the proposed facility would be located on the eastern side of the Babine Forest Products log-yard, just east of the Village of Burns Lake. If built, the 25,000 square foot airport hanger-style building would employ up to 100 people in the construction and sale of work camp trailers.

“We’ll be looking for another 25 positions that would form a team of delivery and setup specialists,” Gerow added.

In order to expedite production timelines, Gerow is hoping to develop the project with an established camp-building partner.

Britco LP, headquartered in Langley, B.C. is Gerow’s first choice for a partner in the project. Britco has three camp manufacturing facilities in B.C., plus another 10 internationally.

“We’re meeting with their executive vice president next Thursday in Vancouver to determine their level of interest in the joint venture,” Gerow said.

With all the construction and industrial activity already taking place, or scheduled to take place over the next decade in Northern B.C., the time seems ripe for a facility like this in a location as central as Burns Lake.

There is currently a 16 to 20 month wait list for the construction and delivery of modular trailers. Gerow has been quietly canvassing industry interest in his proposal.

“I had dropped multiple lines to mineral, oil, and gas industry [players] to find their needs for camps,” Gerow said. “I found out that the majority of those industry players were keenly interested in the opportunity to be able to work with First Nations to provide the services they desperately need.”

“Some of the industries I talked to not only expressed interest in the opportunity to provide camps for North America, but also internationally,” Gerow added. “Apache Canada, for example, mentioned that they could see us building camps here, shipping them to Prince Rupert, and then putting them on ships to meet their international needs.”

But the enterprise will require a lot of start-up capital. Gerow expects to need between $11 and $15 million in capital to build the facility, train workers and purchase initial materials.

The return on investment would be quick. The feasibility report indicated that, based on a conservative estimate of 30 units per month, First Choice Camps could be turning a profit within six months of starting operations.

The key matter for Gerow is to get things happening quickly. Major industrial projects are getting underway and he hopes to have the facility up and running in time to bid on supplying trailers for the New Gold mine project southwest of Vanderhoof, a potential 1,500 person camp.

“With a lot of hard work, we should be able to launch construction by this summer,” Gerow said.

He added that they’ve already had major resource companies express interest in helping them get the project off the ground by this summer.

“The big thing is the capital,” Gerow said.

But if he can get the funding together, Gerow is confident that Burns Lake is the perfect place for a construction facility like this, with easy rail access, and a next door neighbour in the soon to be rebuilt Babine Forest Products sawmill. Supply and transportation are potentially right at the doorstep.

“We’re near the geographic centre of B.C.,” said Gerow. “We’re a hub to the activity in the Pacific Northwest.”

Gerow has given MNP the go-ahead to put together a business plan, a human resource strategy and a labour market analysis of the Lakes District.