The news that Canfor has made the decision to invest $38.5 million into the Radium Sawmill is sure to boost the spirits of many disheartened workers who have found themselves without stable employment since the same mill closed in 2009. The global recession struck communities across the country with full force, but Canada was one country that weathered the financial storm better than most, thanks to our national banking system with its long-standing laws and regulations. Now that new investment is on the horizon and businesses are beginning to recover, it’s important to look back and learn the lesson that this most recent chapter in history has to teach us.
In late 2009, I attended a workshop hosted by a renowned business and career coach. What she shared with the audience was this: In her experience, the businesses that not only survived the recession, but flourished, were the ones that were flexible, creative and willing to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace. She cautioned, as the old saying goes, against “putting all of one’s eggs in one basket” and stressed that diversity was the key.
In light of this advice, Radium Hot Springs and its surrounding communities, while capitalizing on the regional economic impetus the reopening of the mill will undoubtedly provide, should keep in mind some important facts. In a report titled “B.C. Forests in Crisis — A Community Call for Reform” issued in 2011 by the BC Government and Services Union, it is stated that in ten years, 70 mills closed in B.C. with more than 33,000 direct forest sector jobs lost. Clearly, the Radium Sawmill was one of the affected and is since recovering. But it would seem that by regarding any one venture or industry as the golden path that will provide all the answers is problematic when economic factors beyond our regional control come swooping in. The revival of the local forest sector should be embraced, but so should the ongoing development of the other industry sectors — tourism, oudoor recreation and knowledge-based, to name just a few — the Columbia Valley is well-equipped to sustain.