B.C.’s Northern Capital

The City of Prince George

In the 19th century during the gold rush, Fort George became the main staging area for the miners who would be heading off to the gold claims in Barkerville. In 1903 it was announced that the Grand Trunk Railroad would be built in close proximity and Fort George began to grow.

By 1913, land was being purchased in the area, the population had grown to about 3000 and Fort George became the place to be for the railroad workers who needed supplies and entertainment. The community was advertised by land promoters who were able to bring in settlers from places all over Canada and even from Britain. The future looked very bright for the Fort – the winters were mild, and the ground was rich enough to grow just about anything.

Not only was land in Fort George being sold in abundance, but other communities within the area such as Birmingham, Fort Salmon, Nechako Heights and Willow City were enjoying growth as well. After a slight disagreement about where the railway would be built, the railroad company purchased land in an unexpected area that spurred the development of several different communities within the area. By 1914, there were four communities in the area: Fort George, South Central, Miller Addition and the railroad station, Prince George.

On March 6th 1915, the City of Prince George was incorporated and began to grow as a whole, even though construction on the railroad had stopped due to the onset of war in 1914. Most of the men left their jobs and were shipped overseas to help Britain with the war effort, although conscription was not enforced until August 1917. Prince George persevered through the war, the Spanish flu in 1918, and the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The City of Prince George did not begin to see real growth until World War II broke out and a large camp for six thousand soldiers was built near Cranbrook Hill. Needless to say, with six thousand nearby soldiers in need of food, drink and entertainment, the city was revived from the hard economic times of the Depression.

Today, not only is Prince George the largest city in Northern British Columbia, its strategic location has allowed it to become the supply hub of the north. With a population of approximately 76 000 and growing, its residents and visitors can expect big city variety without the big city hustle.

Surrounded by beautiful lakes, vast mountain ranges and seemingly never-ending forest boasting giant ancient trees, the City of Prince George is a great place for people who love large quite spaces and solitude while still being able to be a part of an ever changing community.

According to Mayor Shari Green, “What’s amazing about Prince George is that we have big city amenities but a small-town feel, and one of the things that we talk about for our community is the affordability. In our community, housing is very affordable; I think the average family home is in the 240 000 dollar range. We’ve got an easy commute so you’re able to be home after work to enjoy your leisure time as opposed to spending an hour in traffic each way.” The City boasts a strong and skilled workforce, while enjoying greater employment than ever before seen in the history of the community.

The location alone makes this city a great destination; it’s easy to get to and from because of the international airport. “We have a very creative and tenacious group of people who live here that are bound and determined to provide some fabulous opportunities for this community and this region and that’s one of them,” says Mayor Green.

Another is the “incredible four season living,” shares Mayor Green. This is because the temperatures are mild during the winter, allowing for winter hiking and exploring, yet the area still gets a lot of snow which makes it a great destination spot for skiing. Indeed, Prince George will have the opportunity to showcase this natural winter beauty to the nation, as it welcomes the Canada Winter Games as 2015’s official host city.

For those who are after a business opportunity, not only does the city’s reputation bring in large numbers of tourists, but the city has one of the lowest business to resident tax ratios in the province. There are also significant cash incentives for those who wish to renovate or build new construction in the downtown. In a recent KPMG survey, Prince George ranked second as the most cost-competitive location for business on the west coast of North America.

According to Mayor Green, “It’s a thriving community; we’ve got a tremendous population of people who are in the education and healthcare sectors. We have a very strong small university with an incredible research program going on, which keeps a lot of different people connected to Prince George through the University with the work that they do. We are the centre for the Northern Health Region – we provide service to all of the north – and there is a huge sector of our community that is involved in healthcare.”

The city is also the centre for the region’s forestry industry, and the pulp and saw mill industries have been able to take advantage of the abundance of wood in the area. The city has plenty of forestry and logging jobs, and this industry has a long and rich history in the area.

According to Mayor Green, “The biggest thing around the natural resource development that’s going on in the North is that it’s really driving revenue generation for the province. Just between 2011 and 2014 there is about 35 billion dollars being spent in projects that are in the books and then another 64 billion over the next decade. The mining industry is just tremendous, and the oil and gas industries are certainly growing. In the past those industries were primarily in the North East sector, and now we’re seeing Liquefied Natural Gas in particular becoming a real opportunity for the province. The revenue from that will be astronomical as we look into how we can best tap into Asian markets.”

The city boasts a tenacious and robust community, which is part of the reason why a medium sized community such as Prince George is able to have its own international airport as well as other fabulous opportunities for residents. Children represent the next generation and are very important to the community; the city has a number of excellent schools and a variety of opportunities for early childhood education programs. “We have very unique neighbourhoods all across the city with great family environments for people who want to raise a family and get their kids onto their educational career. In terms of our senior citizen population we have a pretty active senior population, as well as some really strong seniors associations. We’re focused on accessibility and visitability when it comes to our housing options, so we look into that as we consider plans for new subdivisions and new housing opportunities.”

Recently in the city’s downtown core, a new affordable housing project for seniors was completed. In the past there were not many residents living in the downtown area, but with the new senior housing project the people who need to be close to amenities the most will have exactly what they need in close proximity. This new project is part of a plan to expand the liveability of the CBD and provide opportunities for vendors to operate outside of the typical 9 to 5. With the new housing, the Mayor hopes that there will be a reason for shops and other amenities to keep their doors open a little later. “It’s just beautiful, fabulous; there’s actually a waiting list to get in.”

With quality schools, strong employment opportunities and incentives offered for downtown revitalization, the City of Prince George, British Columbia has undertaken smart, sensible planning to draw new growth to the area. The forestry and other resource sectors are booming all around the province. With clean streets, beautiful architecture both old and new, plenty of parks and recreational opportunities for people of any age, and a whole wilderness to enjoy, there really is something for everyone.

December 11, 2017, 2:33 AM EST