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Yellowknife IT companies press shift

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 6, 2012

For better or worse, a number of downtown information technology (IT) companies have moved to new locations across the city, and are citing a shift in the way the sector operates in Yellowknife.

Service provider Global Storm IT Corp. is now settling into the second floor of the RTL Robinson building on Old Airport Road, after more than eight years with offices on the lower level of the Nunasi building.

While owner Kirby Marshall is pleased to have windows around the perimeter of the new Global Storm offices, CasCom Communications and Computers has seen drawbacks since leaving its downtown location, for the company's new Kam Lake location.

"We're definitely less visible than we used to be, which is a major drawback," president Aaron Jacque said. "A lot of people don't necessarily know that CasCom is still around because we're out here now."

CasCom's Nahanni Drive location is better suited to the company's satellite dish work, Jacque noted, with more space available for large service equipment, including a garage bay with an overhead door for vehicle installations.

"In a sense, we chose to move to a location that was more appropriate to our type of work," Jacque said.

Tamarack Computers, after 16 years at its NorthwesTel Tower storefront, is now the Yk Centre's newest tenant.

In addition to more attractive rental rates, the move was prompted by a shift in the market away from retail, said Tamarack president Dale Crouch.

"It's a changing of the marketplace," Crouch said, noting at one time the city had about seven retail computer stores, before the influx of box stores, when computer retail companies such as MicroAge Computer Stores, and Netsos Computer Sales and Service were forced to shut down.

"There's many more organizations that are selling PCs," Crouch said. "And not just naming Wal-Mart, and Staples, etc., etc., but there's also online sources available. So that has changed the model that you have to operate to survive in Yellowknife.

"We believe that our market is more commercial than retail and we have to provide additional value-added services to be able to continue to prosper here."

Tamarack's new mall location is more centralized for the company's focus on commercial services, which include network administration and Internet services for small and medium-sized businesses.

The decrease in retail presence in the city has also created a void for consumers to get service work done on basic computer equipment, Jacque said.

"And that's a little bit unfortunate, that scenario that's happened," Jacque said. "But the retail is not viable because of the bigger box stores selling the product. Without having the retail part of things it's hard to support that type of support aspect."

Like Global Storm and Tamarack, CasCom continues to provide support for corporate networks.

CasCom was in its 49th Street building for more than 10 years, before diamond manufacturer Crossworks Manufacturing Ltd., announced last summer that it will be opening a diamond tourism centre at the building. Renovations have not yet begun on the centre.

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