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Highway tops Sahtu to-do list
Strong regional training programs needed to optimize opportunity, says MLA

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 11, 2013

The key to economic and community growth is a highway connecting the Sahtu to the South, said Norman Wells and District Chamber of Commerce president Chris Buist.

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Norman Wells and District Chamber of Commerce president Chris Buist: "The number one thing is infrastructure and mainly the Mackenzie Highway."

"The number one thing is infrastructure and mainly the Mackenzie Highway," he said. "It really is the backbone and the key to economic development. It's how we get product out to market.

Whether the industry is mining, manufacturing, agriculture, or tourism, ultimately "the road is key," he said.

In the fifth instalment of the NWT Opportunities series, News/North identifies ways the Sahtu hopes to harness economic potential in the region.

Buist also said the road is vital to alleviating the region's high cost of living and will be necessary to make expansion possible for Norman Wells.

While the road may be needed for the future, the region is seeing heightened activity for now.

In an interview earlier this year, Industry, Tourism, and Investment Minister David Ramsay said there were 13 leases in the region with work commitments totalling $634 million.

"This coming winter the expenditures in the region will reach well over $100 million," said Ramsay. "That will go back in to the economy up there, including a 40 km all-weather road being constructed by Husky using local


Infrastructure improvement and the highway top Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya's list as well, followed closely by an improvement in training and education.

"We need to look at how we educate children to produce high-quality graduates," he said, adding a Sahtu-based trade school would help residents access the training and education they need.

An average of 52 per cent of residents in the Sahtu do not have a certificate, diploma or a degree.

The numbers vary significantly between the region's communities since only 19 per cent of Norman Wells residents do not have one of the three distinctions whereas 74 per cent of Colville Lake residents do not have those levels of education.

With better education will come strong leaders and both will be crucial to ensuring a strong vision for the Sahtu, and the territory, as national and international eyes turn to Northern resources, Yakeleya said.

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Economic highlights

  • The employment rate in Norman Wells is 80 per cent with other Sahtu communities ranging between 42 to 44 per cent. The Sahtu average is 50 per cent employment.
  • Norman Wells has the highest number of homes, 80 per cent, with Internet in the Sahtu. Tulita, Fort Good Hope, Deline and Colville Lake range have between 26 to 46 per cent of homes with Internet access.
  • The Sahtu region makes up 6.16 per cent of the NWT's population
  • 79 per cent of the Sahtu population is over 15 years old
  • The average personal income for the Sahtu region is $43,189. Average personal income in Norman Wells is $76,732.

Source: Government of the Northwest Territories

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