The panel discussion kicks off at the Community Centre on Tuesday during the third annual Campbell River Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. From the left are Greg Baynton of the Vancouver Island Construction Association

Big projects inspired Berwick to begin

One local building project can spur on another, especially when there’s fierce competition for skilled labour

One local building project can spur on another, especially when there’s fierce competition for skilled labour.

That’s the case across the country and in this city too, according to a panel of business leaders who spoke at the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce third annual Business Expo.

“We pulled the trigger on our building when the hospital project was announced because we didn’t want to be competing for trades, especially with the hospital,” said Bill Bomhoff, vice-president of construction for Berwick Retirement Communities.

Bomhoff is presently overseeing construction of the swanky new Berwick residence, located downtown just south of Tyee Plaza. The six-storey, woodframe building will feature plenty of green space, a rooftop garden, and a magnificent gathering area on the top floor to be named the Tyee Room.

But Bomhoff’s point was the company had to move quickly to begin construction or possibly be held back due to a shortage of skilled labour.

Next year will see the start of two large construction projects in Campbell River. A new $266-million, 95-bed hospital will be built next to the present hospital site.

As well, BC Hydro will begin a massive $1 billion project to upgrade the John Hart Generating Station. The work will include building a two-kilometre tunnel to deliver water from John Hart Lake to a brand new generating station.

Hydro is also building a new $23-million field office at Quinsam Crossing.

“It make sense to hire locally…and this is a good community to do work in,” said BC Hydro spokesman Stephen Watson, who added there’s always opportunities for local subcontractors.

The new hospital project – which includes a new hospital in Courtenay – is under the guidance of Tom Sparrow who was also on the panel. He said that once the general contractor is selected, they will also be seeking local contractors for trades and services, because its usually more efficient in terms of both time and money.

As for skilled labour, that’s an ongoing concern for the big project operators.

“We’re not concerned about BC Hydro, it’s other projects in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan. We will be competing with those projects,” said Sparrow. “There is a concern, no question.”

And if Canadians can’t fill the jobs, companies are looking elsewhere in the world for skilled workers.

“We’re going to be relying on immigrants as these projects peak,” said Greg Baynton, CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association, who is nevertheless pleased by the growing number of projects on Vancouver Island and across B.C. “We’ve never seen opportunities like this. This is unprecedented.”