Northeast B.C.’s homegrown oil and gas service sector group is merging with a provincial construction lobby in a move leaders say will increase the profile and issues facing the region’s natural resource sector.
The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. (ICBA) has acquired the Fort St. John-based Energy Services BC, the two groups announced Feb. 1 at the Premier’s Natural Resources Forum in Prince George.
Being absorbed into the ICBA will give the region’s oil and gas sector a bigger voice on the provincial stage, ESBC Executive Director Art Jarvis said.
“It’s a big step forward for us from just being a lobbying and advocacy group. We’ve got bigger strength now,” said Jarvis, who has helmed Energy Services BC for the last five years, and will work for the ICBA in Fort St. John.
Talks between the two groups began shortly after simultaneous truck rallies in support of LNG development were held across northern B.C. last March. While ICBA helped to kickstart the launch with local businesses in the Northwest, the idea quickly spread to the Northeast, where local organizers Fort St John for LNG turned the local rally into 600-truck convoy down the Alaska Highway that made provincial and national headlines.
“That’s when I met with the (ICBA) president and we recognized that the services we advocate and lobby for parallel theirs—ours is in oil and gas, theirs is in construction,” Jarvis said. "They didn’t have the connections. It was the right marriage.”
Energy Services began roughly 40 years ago as the Northern Society of Oilfield Contractors & Service Firms as a regional advocate for industry service companies. It changed its name to Energy Services BC in 2007 and broadened its focus on the overall energy sector and to encompass a more diverse group of members.
While the organization has seen success on a number of files—including a local tax inspector for Fort St. John to keep tabs on out-of-province contractors that have not paid taxes and levies—it has been looking to extend its influence and profile in the province, Jarvis said.
Meanwhile, the ICBA has been interested in learning more about the province’s oil and gas industry, Jarvis said. The merger will strengthen advocacy for responsible resource development.
“The problem is, people down south in the Lower Mainland, they just don’t understand, they aren’t educated in what responsible resource development brings them,” Jarvis said. “This is going to turn out to be a very powerful partnership that is good for the communities and good for the province.”
Current ESBC members will transition into ICBA members throughout the year, and will see greater value from their new membership, including a range of new benefits offered by the ICBA, Jarvis said.
ICBA opened its first regional office in Prince George last year, and the company says acquiring ESBC furthers its regional expansion. It is seeking office space in Fort St. John and expects to be fully operational in 2018 after building out its business plan.
“People in the northeast understand what drives prosperity in B.C.,” said ICBA Regional Vice-President Mike Davis, who attended the truck rally in Fort St. John.
“Together, the ICBA and ESBC will stand up for investments in the energy and resource sector to help bring jobs here and help build stronger communities.”
[Updated to correct and clarify organization of the Fort St. John LNG truck rally. Ed.]