Ripple effect: How B.C. businesses and communities enjoy the benefits of oil and gas

Development helps provide a ‘healthy, wealthy lifestyle’

By Mario Toneguzzi
Cameron Schulz is an entrepreneur in the Dawson Creek region of northern B.C. Photo supplied for the Canadian Energy Centre

No one has to tell entrepreneur Cameron Schulz how important the oil and gas industry is in British Columbia.

As an owner of four businesses in the Dawson Creek region, he lives it every day.

“Oil and gas in this area, whether it’s actual drilling or the service sector, definitely impacts the health and wellness of my different businesses,” says Schulz, owner of the Legacy Group, which is comprised of a sign shop, a car wash and a convenience store in Dawson Creek as well as a small grocery store in Hudson’s Hope. The company also has some commercial real estate in Fort St. John.

“When oil and gas comes in, whether it’s pipeline guys or driller guys or the service sector, we are the beneficiaries of that,” he says.

“They’re hiring a number of different people, whether it’s mid-size rental equipment, whether it’s welders, or whether it’s fabrication shops or pipeliners, and they all need retail services. We all see that…It’s a ripple effect and it directly impacts us.”

According to CEC research, in 2017 the oil and gas sector:

  • was responsible for adding nearly $9.5 billion in nominal GDP to the B.C. economy;
  • generated nearly $18 billion in outputs, consisting primarily of the value of goods and services produced by various sectors in the B.C. economy;
  • supported over 62,000 direct and indirect jobs in B.C.’s economy;
  • paid over $3.1 billion in wages and salaries to workers in B.C..

Kathleen Connolly, CEO of the Dawson Creek & District Chamber of Commerce, says the northeast part of British Columbia is blessed with natural resources.

“I think to many people’s surprise oil and gas hasn’t [just] been in the northeast for the last 10 years – it’s been here since the 1950s. It’s been a part of our economy, our circular economy and our local supply chain, for a really long time,” she says.

“We [are] so used to the quality of life that oil and gas has given us. We live a very strong, healthy, wealthy lifestyle and a lot of it is because the industry is here. It increases quality of life. It increases access to infrastructure like hospitals, roadwork, and in more good living wages for families. It does a huge service, positive service, to our community and beyond that to the rest of British Columbia and even Canada.”

Connolly said one of the aspects of the industry that gets overlooked is that people often move to Dawson Creek and area from other parts of the country for the lifestyle and the money they can make.

“When you have families that move into your communities, it grows foundationally. It increases the social fabric of our community. We have more kids to play soccer, we have more people to spend money in local businesses and those businesses are everything from dance shops where your little girl or little boy is going to dance classes and require proper clothing for that,” she says.

About 27,000 people worked directly in oil and gas in B.C. in 2017, but Connolly says it’s important to recognize the indirect jobs that are generated from that activity – approximately 36,000 in 2017, according to CEC research.

“That’s the person at Tim Hortons serving breakfast in the morning. That’s our supply shops selling valves and mechanical items. That’s our tire shops. That’s our clothing stores. That’s all of those people that benefit from the wealth that’s generated from that industry.”

Dale Bumstead, Mayor of the City of Dawson Creek, says people generally move to the region for a great job or a great business opportunity for them and their families.

“The oil and gas sector, and the natural gas sector particularly has really transformed our community in a pretty significant way over the last 20 years I would say particularly. It’s been very positive,” he says.

“Those companies come in and they develop the resource, but they don’t come in and hire 3,000 people. They come in and hire our business community and those businesses, those service sectors, are the ones that hire the employees that are in our community and then that ripples throughout.”

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