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Positive vibe in Port Hardy

There are signs the future, both the near and far, is bright for Port Hardy, according to community leaders

Population growth, new business and investment from First Nations, government and existing companies — community leaders are saying things are looking up for Port Hardy.

The 2016 census showed population growth of about three per cent for Port Hardy, up to 4,132 from a low of about 3,800 in 2006. The Kwa'lilas Hotel will soon open its conference space, restaurant and pub to compliment the newly-renovated 85 guest rooms, an investment of the Gwa'sala 'Nakwaxda'xw First Nations. The community recently approved spending for a new multiplex.

Marine Harvest continues to add full-time positions. And as the commercial halibut season opens, the district's investment in its harbours — especially at the Seine Floats — has solidified the community's position as a top destination for the fishing fleet, Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood said last week.

"If you have the facilities, the fishermen tend to visit them," Bood said last week. "Over the years we've been hit over the head a bit, but we're in a positive spot right now. We're a little more diversified than some other communities. We don't depend entirely on the forestry sector, although we absolutely know it's still the biggest employer on the North Island."

Some of this positive feel is based on anecdotal evidence and just a feel around town, said Bood, who added community members are showing less of what he calls "that down in the mouth thing."

Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce executive director Elizabeth Aman-Hume has only been in town for a little more than three months.

In that time, she said the chamber has added more than a dozen new members and the organization’s first luncheon of the year had great attendance.

“What I see is a really positive environment for growth,” said Aman-Hume. “I find it encouraging — there’s an undercurrent of people feeling positive.”

Aman-Hume said members of the Port Hardy business community are actively trying to improve.

“I think people are really keen to engage and learn everything they can to attract and retain customers,” she said.

Those customers  — both residents and visitors — are likely to have more options in the near future. Both Bood and Aman-Hume couldn’t officially provide specifics, but they said they have heard about plans for some of the empty storefronts in the district.