Alaskan options
NWT business eyes North Slope market

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 17/00) - For the Northern Transportation Company Ltd., Alaska -- a destination the company already services -- represents a growth area.

"For that region, the Mackenzie River delivery system will get you to Alaska's North Slope earlier than the traditional Seattle route," said Cameron Clement, president of the aboriginal-owned, Hay-River based marine services company.

The river route also offers a later departure date that the route from Seattle, he added.

"And there's no question the Canadian dollar makes the economics extremely attractive."

Clement was among 21 NWT residents who participated in a recent trade NWT Chamber of Commerce-RWED trade mission to Alaska..

The group visited Juneau, Anchorage, Nome and Barrow, as well as Whitehorse in the Yukon.

So, when it comes to expanding its business in Alaska, Clement said NTCL believes it has a lot going for them. But it is another country and developing new revenue can take time, he added.

"You want to make them aware there is a choice."

NTCL, which has an office in Anchorage, is also hopeful Alaska's oil and gas industry will go through big growth in the coming years.

"That's a growth area for us."

Clement said with the Prudhoe Bay oil field declining, Alaska will need to find additional sources of oil for transport south. Another business opportunity in Alaska is in the area of housing, said Barry Stewart, president of Igloo Building Supplies in Edmonton.

"From what I could see, our Northern housing is much further ahead, compared to Alaska. I think our technology is superior," Stewart said.

"I think there could be some more business come out of Alaska."

But, he adds, going to a different country for business is not easy. Igloo supplied the material for several homes that were built through an NWT Housing Corp. deal with Barrow, Alaska, last year.

"It takes time and investment to get things going," he said. The company has projects on the go in China, Japan, Korea, Poland and Germany, and is looking at Greenland.

Igloo Building Supplies is a rare example of a company that started out in the NWT and expanded south. The company, which started business in Hay River in the late 1950s, is the largest building supply yard in Edmonton, Stewart said.

NWT Chamber of Commerce president Kevin Diebold said it is essential business and government work together to make trade links work.

"Since we all live in the North, we face many of he same issues," Diebold said.

The political contingent -- including NWT Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs Jim Antoine -- met with state representatives and chairs of trade and finance committees.

The business participants, who met with local chambers of commerce, also learned how to work with U.S. Customs, the NWT Chamber said. Canadian consul general Roger Simmons and trade officer Jim Sheehan, both based in Seattle, also participated.