Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams says the lean years his city endured a decade ago were very tough.
“The darkest day wasn’t a day, it was a couple of years,” Adams said.
In 2008 and 2009, the TimberWest sawmill closed and the curtailment at the Catalyst Mill would eventually lead to a full shutdown.
“It was over 3,000 jobs of good resource sector jobs that were just gone,” said Adams.
But while the jobs disappeared, the people didn’t. Work was found in places like Fort McMurray and even as far away as Puru but the workers’ families stayed because they believed in Campbell River.
“They kept their families here, they kept their kids in school, they kept their homes here and commuted so they were doing two weeks in, two weeks out,” added Adams.
And it appears to have been a good strategy because things soon began to change. Federal and provincial investments of $1.5 billion for construction of a new hospital and the new John Hart Generating Station brought new jobs and the construction never stopped.
Construction of a new Berwick retirement home, hotels, and a downtown office building kept the ball rolling.
Campbell River quickly became the second fastest growing community on the island, behind Langford.
“We’ve had over 500 apartment units built in the last 14 months and we have another 800 on the books for the next 24 coming up,” said Adams.
Aquaculture is one of the biggest employers on the north Island but after being burned by the resource sector, Campbell River is careful about putting all its eggs in one basket.
Tourism is also getting bigger and bigger. Just ask Dean Parsonage who moved his family to Campbell River from Australia to start a fishing and marine tours charter business: 50 North Adventures.
“The town didn’t know what it was going to be and where it was going to go and I just thought tourism had to be it,” he said. “You look at Vancouver and you look at Victoria and what BC offers and it was an absolute no-brainer for us.”
Bill Coltart moved his wildlife tours business Big Animal Encounters to Campbell River from Comox.
“We’ve seen such an uptake in tourism from this area largely because of the proximity to nature, the proximity of Strathcona Park and the water environment here,” said Coltart.