A new $1.7-million FortisBC central warehousing facility is being built in Greater Trail, even as the power company is expected to pull 67 jobs out of the area and into a new proposed Castlegar operations centre.
FortisBC community relations manager Blair Weston confirmed this week that, although Greater Trail would lose 67 jobs—including two from its Trail office—with the transfer of its transmission, distribution and construction operations to Castlegar, it would gain a whole new operation that would create some new jobs in the area, and inject some cash back into the local economy.
Although he could not say how many jobs would be created, work began Tuesday to build the new facility on Bingay Road in Warfield, said Weston. They are closing the operation in Kelowna and moving it to Trail.
“It’s over $1.7 million we’re injecting in to the Trail economy right now with just that project,” he said, also noting the $500 million being spent at the Waneta Dam expansion.
“And with that will come some later benefits to the local economy as well.”
The project is an expansion of the existing facility—that also houses linemen, engineers and power generation crew foremen—creating a central warehouse for the entirety of FortisBC.
Even with the loss of 67 employees to Greater Trail, Weston said there are still over 130 FortisBC employees in Trail that will still be coming to the Silver City for their 9-to-5 commitment.
And with employees spread out over the entire West Kootenay, Weston said the proposed move does not mean the income associated with the jobs will also be moving, with nobody being required to move for their new job in Castlegar.
“We’re very committed to the community of Trail,” he said. “We’re pumping money into the local economy. There are some jobs moving, sure, but in the end what we’re doing is to the benefit of all out customers to provide the most efficient service we can.”
With two buildings at the end of their life span, they needed to be repaired or replaced, Weston explained. It was felt to be much more efficient to build one centralized location than to build in two or three spots.
“But I can’t say lower rates,” he admitted.
“The rates are never lower. I don’t want to mislead anybody by saying that. Certainly, this is a positive impact to rates rather than rebuilding and renovating in the current facilities.”
The decision to build the new facility at 120 Ooteschenia Road was not politically motivated, said Weston, instead the project was completely driven by geography: Castlegar was a central location for the West Kootenay operation.
“Nothing can change that (location),” he said.
The whole move is for the benefit of the entire operation, creating a more efficient operation in the West Kootenay.
But the proposal still needs to go through. Since FortisBC is a utility corporation they will still need to gain approval from the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC).
The property that FortisBC is looking at for the operations centre is in Ootischenia and was originally acquired as a prospective site of the new West Kootenay Regional Hospital.
Two years ago FortisBC had been in conversation with the City of Trail over moving its regional operations centre. At that time the number of jobs being moved was 60.
The new centre is expected to house approximately 160 to 180 jobs, including the existing jobs that will transfer over from the existing Castlegar facility.
FortisBC spokesperson Michael Allison said office space would take up half of the 30,000-square foot structure, while storage space would comprise the other half.