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Yellowknife a draw for skilled labour

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 09/02) - Skilled labourers are needed in Yellowknife as construction projects have boomed in the city.

As of the end of July total value for construction projects in Yellowknife skyrocketed to nearly $43 million compared to last year's $13.3 million.

Glen Peterson, Manager of Building Inspections with the city, says a couple of projects take up a big chunk of that total.

Projects such as the jail, the arena, phase II at Stanton Plaza and a 14 storey apartment complex are big money projects.

But that doesn't diminish the fact that there have been a higher number of residential projects in the city this year.

Permits for single family residences are up to 22 this year from last year's six and multi-family complexes are up to four from none last year.

Although housing starts are up Peterson says it doesn't necessarily point to a population influx.

"I don't think I can substantiate a population growth just because housing starts are up," said Peterson.

There are a number of variables that could have generated the increased residential construction, lower interest rates, more available lots and an appreciation in housing values, which have led people to sell and build their own homes.

One more significant factor is the opening of lots, especially on Niven Drive as additional phases of that project get underway.

It is possible that an increase in local construction, drawing labour to fill local skills shortages, could result in an increase in population.

"Right now there is a real shortage of skilled labour so it is bringing people to town," says Peterson.

Unfortunately a lot of those labourers may be transient, but Peterson says some of them may decide to stay.

Increased activity also attracts other outside interest.

"When word gets around that a place is booming it is a draw," said Peterson.

Although that may have indirect benefits of increased tourism and possibly population, directly the city will benefit from additional taxes.