Squamish 2035: Investment in Manufacturing and Light Industry Key

Editor’s NOTE: Taken from the special print issue of the Squamish Reporter charting the town’s future, this article by Eric Andersen  presents his vision on Industry

ericsmallBy Eric Andersen
Published: Feb 6, 2015


What exactly is it that we mean by the word industry. It typically refers to activities that, for Squamish, fall into four categories. We’ll list them in order of their dependence on our location – aspects of our unique geography.

1. Marine and Rail Transportation/ Logistics. Example: Squamish Terminals Ltd. facilities.

2. Primary resource extraction and relating handling at sort yards or tidewater.

3. Primary processing of raw materials. Examples: Sawmilling, or chipping or crushing.

4. Secondary manufacturing. Examples: Wood remanufacturing or masonry products for building.

It is of interest to note that businesses in the latter three categories may well depend on the categories above in order to thrive here – end user product from unfinished feedstock from raw material, with transportation at either end.

Squamish is a port town, a rare gateway – a unique fjord-valley connected to a vast hinterland. We can assume the rail line and harbour shipping facilities at Squamish will still be here in 20 years. They are definitely not expendable.

Investment in new terminals for coastwise and deep sea shipping is certainly possible, at sites already identified in our Estuary Management Plan. It would depend on what’s going on in Interior industries and on what happens at alternative terminals, mainly at Burrard Inlet’s North Shore.

As to typical products coming through Squamish, lumber and chip shipments from the Interior will be down during coming years due to the effects of the pine beetle epidemic, but pulp and pellet export can at least be sustained.

There has always been mining and quarrying activity in our region at some scale and we can expect this will continue. Timber harvesting and mineral extraction activities are allocated potential working areas in approved, long term regional land use plans.

Over the decades ahead, available timber supply from our working forests is expected to slowly grow in our region, with Squamish as timber industry hub. This can be taken advantage of if a balanced harvest of the various grades and species can be achieved.

Realizing the full Annual Allowable Cut available and prospects for new sawmilling facility investment mainly depend on plans and policies – is not limited by timber resource supply, or lack of advantageous locations for facilities if we protect them.

This regional forestry and wood products industry opportunity is probably not widely appreciated.

Another circumstance for future Squamish Industry there is still too little awareness of is the emerging role of the Squamish Nation, along with the other First Nations to the north. Together, they own over half the right rights in our region, and will be very dependent on log handling facilities at Squamish tidewater. The Squamish Nation owns critical lands designated for industrial use for the long term.

Now we come to future prospects for secondary manufacturing, or “Light Industry” (but we must be careful how we interpret this term, since manufacturing would not be a compatible neighbour for many commercial activities now located in our “Light Industry” “Business Park”).

It seems that the higher up the value chain the easier it is to locate elsewhere. This is certainly the experience of Squamish, with many manufacturing or light industrial type businesses coming and going over the decades. By comparison, primary processing and “medium industrial” enterprises have had far more stable presence in the community.

Due to its relatively favourable location, Squamish should be able to attract manufacturing and “Light Industry” investment through offering affordable, suitably zoned land, and good general business conditions.

Cluster strategies within sectors of the business community could improve the competiveness of Squamish for “value-added industry”. A more complete local supply chain, say with specialized shipping and/ or a raw material supplier, can improve opportunity for manufacturing industry investment.

This is all entirely possible at Squamish over the next 20 years.

What about “Green Industry”? Well, all industries can and should be operated “green”. And, the local industries with quite good growth potential as discussed are already based on the renewable resources of our forest landscape.

What about Woodfibre? If an LNG export terminal is built there, by the year 2035 there easily exist complimentary industries on or related to the site. By this time – who knows? – perhaps there may be plans for biofuels production and shipping there. After all, present business plans are only based on a 25 year horizon.

It is not a surprise that Woodfibre has been chosen for the proposed LNG terminal, and the next use of the site might not be a surprise either – because its advantages for industrial and shipping use are quite rare.

Squamish constraints and opportunities are unique, and from them we can make some predictions. We should use this opportunity of making predictions to make good plans. We are caretakers of industrial land for future generations and stakeholders elsewhere, and for the environment and our future community neighbourhoods that may be impacted by neglect or poor planning.