Once again I'm forwarding on another great list for BC.
Pat Bell http://www.patbellmla.bc.ca
1. Bucking the national trend our local unemployment rate saw another drop last month to 6.1-percent. That's down .3% over Decembers 6.4 % rate, and an amazing turnaround when compared to last January's rate of 13%!
2. Small businesses across B.C. will be able to access free energy-efficiency advice, equipment and incentives with the new LiveSmart BC: Small Business Program. The $15-million, three-year LiveSmart BC: Small Business Program will be tailored to meet the needs of key sectors such accommodations, retail, agriculture, offices and more than $4.5 million allocated for upgrades in the restaurant industry. Building on the successful residential LiveSmart BC: Efficiency Incentive Program, this new program will support small businesses owners who may not have the time, information or resources to make energy efficient improvements. There are four components to the program: Business Energy Advisors: will deliver free energy assessments, help owners tap into available product incentives and cash rebates, and help co-ordinate product installation. Direct Installation: will fund 100 per cent of the cost of replacing and installing select energy-efficient equipment such as lighting and pre-rinse spray valves for commercial kitchens. Enhanced Product Incentives: will increase cash rebates for more than 10,000 energy efficient products. LiveSmart Champion: an open call for businesses to access funding for new, innovative ways to conserve energy.
3. DriveBC is the Province of British Columbia’s most popular website, and it’s been overhauled and improved by Shirley Bond’s team to make it more user-friendly. The highlight of the new website is an enhanced map view of the province’s highway network. Users can roll over icons on the map to get details of highway events, road conditions and webcam information. As with the previous version of DriveBC, highway events are also available in list form. The DriveBC website at www.drivebc.ca is just one of the many tools the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is using to keep people informed of highway conditions and the work the ministry is doing around the province. Congratulations to Shirley for the great work!
4. A TD report out last week shows B.C. was a net recipient of 5,592 people moving here from other provinces in 2010 – the highest in Canada. BC is forecast to continue being a top destination for interprovincial migration through 2011 and 2012.
5. A new $15-million employment and skills training program can help unemployed British Columbians gain the skills, confidence and experience needed to find employment. The Province is providing $15 million each fiscal year for Job Options BC – a program that consists of four to six weeks of facilitated group work followed by an additional four to six weeks of work experience, preparing participants for new employment, or when appropriate, further training. When needed, individuals completing the program can also access up to six months of additional support to help them succeed.
6. The HST Information Office launched www.hstinbc.ca a new website designed to put more factual information on the HST in the hands of British Columbians. Public opinion research released in December showed that there is confusion about the HST’s implications, and that a majority of British Columbians are interested in reviewing straightforward and factual information about the HST. The new website was created from a user perspective, based on a review of user surveys, site analytics and polling research. The site has an improved navigation system, so users can find facts and information faster. With a simple URL — www.hstinbc.ca — web users now have access to HST information from a consumer, family-budget, and small- or large-business perspective.
7. Over 100 actions have been completed or are underway in response to the March 2009 Working Roundtable on Forestry. A January 2011 status update on recommendations from the Working Roundtable on Forestry is now available at: www.for.gov.bc.ca/mof/forestry_roundtable This is the third progress report to be released by government. Copies of the original report and the two previous status updates are also available online.
8. $1.2 million in federal-provincial funding for the First Nations Forest Sector Technical Support Program will help First Nations with economic development in the forest and wood products industries. The Technical Support Program will help First Nations groups develop new and existing forest-related businesses. Participants will be provided with technical advice and hands-on expertise, such as best practices in harvesting, transportation, equipment selection, mill layout, manufacturing, market intelligence and market opportunities.
9. Increases of more than 10 per cent in overnight visitors from the U.S. and China, key tourism markets for British Columbia, have contributed to the sixth straight month of gains in international visitors, according to new figures released by Statistics Canada. International overnight visitors to B.C. jumped 7.5 per cent in November 2010 compared with November of the previous year, bringing 175,121 visitors to the province. Canada, by comparison, saw a 6.3 per cent increase. Overnight visitors to B.C. from the U.S. rose 10.9 per cent, while overnight visitors from China jumped 10.4 per cent.
10. Both the Interior and Coastal Forest Industries are benefiting from the work we have done in China. Thirty-five sawmill workers back on the job at the Western Forest Products sawmill in Ladysmith is a perfect example of how B.C.’s coastal forest sector is enjoying increased lumber demand from China. Lumber exports to China for January to November 2010 are nearly 2.5 billion board feet, with a total value of $580 million. With statistics for December still to come, I expect final exports for 2010 will top 2.8 billion board feet and exceed $660 million, to more than double last year’s shipments in terms of value. Provincial lumber exports to China between October and November were about 350 million board feet – one of the biggest monthly gains the market has seen in the last three years. The value of November shipments was about $84 million. More than 200 people are at work in Western’s Ladysmith, Somass, and Nanaimo operations due in part to the growth of the Chinese market for B.C. forest products.