Brian Fehr, a Prince George resident, has been appointed to the Order of British Columbia.
Its the highest form of recognition in the province, and honours people “who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field of endeavour benefiting the people of the province or elsewhere,” explains the Order of British Columbia website.
Fehr is the founder and CEO of BID Group, a billion-dollar group of companies which provide technical systems and construction services for wood products industries, like forestry, across B.C., Canada, and the United States.
Thirteen other civic leaders have been appointed the Order this year, after 203 were nominated. Since its inception, 432 British Columbians have been appointed to the order.
“These exceptional recipients are pillars of our communities who have demonstrated excellence and distinction in their fields. I wish to extend my thanks to all new members for their commitment to meaningful work that leaves a lasting legacy, which benefits and elevates our province for future generations,” said Lt. Gov. Janet Austin, chancellor of the order.
“British Columbia is strong because of our people. This year’s recipients represent the diversity and strength of our province,” said Premier John Horgan.
Fehr was born and raised in Vanderhoof, and says he was asked to nominate himself for the honour several times over the last year, but initially refused. His hesitancy stemmed from his concern the appointment would be focused on his money and companies, rather than the work he does for and within rural B.C.
“What I did was Google the list and I saw the whole bunch of second-generation money people and a whole bunch of rich people, and I’m like, ‘You know what? That’s not me,’” says Fehr. “I come from a Mennonite family in Vanderhoof. My dad made four bucks an hour, had six kids. My story is about way more than money.”
In the end, he agreed to the nomination, but only if the province agreed to also emphasize the work he has done within his community – and much of northern B.C.
BID Group is the largest single employer in Vanderhoof, says Fehr. They also have shops in Prince George, Salmon Arm and Canal Flats. “We have 14 shops across North America,” Fehr says, “and 11 of them are in small towns.
“I’ve always been very, very comfortable in small towns and I’ve always felt like there were a lot of people fighting for the big cities.”
He says that when you grow up in a place like Vanderhoof, or Quesnel, it feels like people spend their lives making money to send off to Vancouver, and the people in Vancouver get to spend it. He doesn’t like that.
“I think people in rural B.C. need good examples. That’s what I really, really believe. I think trying to do the right thing in building a business and being a part of your community [is a good example].”
As well as doing business in rural B.C., Fehr’s business DelTech, a subsidiary of BID Group, has developed an energy system to lower energy costs and greenhouse emissions by using wood burned by the forest industry.
But, as he says, Fehr is more than just a businessman. For much of his life, Fehr struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. Now 21 years sober, he hires recovering addicts and is still involved in the recovery process. He also sits on the Northern Health Board, which he says is very important to him.
He says he spends a lot of time “thinking very deeply” about Quesnel in his role on the board. “I have lots of friends in Quesnel, it’s a great town.”
Fehr also wants young people to know that they aren’t trapped in rural B.C. He says sometimes, when young people come to work for him, they feel stuck. He wants them to know that they aren’t. “Geographical boundaries today mean nothing,” he says. Although Fehr chooses to remain in rural B.C., he’s a good example of this as well.
For Fehr, one of the best things about rural B.C. is how connected people are to each other. “I like the feeling of walking into the store in Vanderhoof and people coming over and talking to me because they knew my mom. They go, ‘I don’t know you, but I remember your mom.’ You don’t get that in a big city. Ever.”