NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Last chance for input
City open to suggestions in developing economic strategy

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Downtown woes continues to bedevil the city a year after council elections identified the deteriorating state of the downtown core as one of the main issues facing the city.

NNSL photo/graphic

Attendees to Thursday's open house will likely hear a lot about support for Yellowknife's downtown retail sector. - Lyndsay Herman/NNSL photo

Now, the city hopes developing an economic strategy will be the first step to rejuvenation. A city economic strategy will be the main subject of conversation at a pair of open houses taking place at city hall tomorrow.

Mayor Mark Heyck said one of the items discussed in the city's research to date was how to strengthen Yellowknife's retail sector, particularly downtown where it not only contends with loiterers and public intoxication but competition from Internet sales.

"As many residents know, downtown Yellowknife has been somewhat challenged for the past several years," he said. "So one of the things we want to look at is a strategy to recruit retail businesses to Yellowknife and to do that in partnership with existing retail operations here in the city."

Heyck said the city needs to find more ways to take advantage of opportunities outside of Yellowknife's boundaries, such as with mining projects in Nunavut, which could use Yellowknife as a logistical centre and as a place of residence for workers.

Heyck said the city intends to meet with industry and discuss where the capital city is lacking and what kind of businesses would be the most useful additions.

A presentation update prepared by consultants hired by the city to develop the economic strategy states Yellowknife's economy is up against a number of challenges, including a lack of co-ordination between various economic development agencies, the high cost of doing business in the North, problematic land use bylaws, and lack of available

housing, among others.

Yellowknife's downtown was listed as a problem all its own.

The city is set to share its findings to date at the two open houses tomorrow, which will also be the last chance for the general public to offer input.

"What we've been able to do with the raw data and the feedback that we've collected is to identify a series of opportunities and challenges for the city," said Mayor Mark Heyck. "(The open house) will present those opportunities and challenges, but it will also begin to lay out some priority areas that, to this point, are the things we should be looking at over the next five years."

Tomorrow's open houses represent the culmination of one-on-one interviews, an online survey and a report prepared in collaboration with consulting firms Millier Dickinson Blais, based in Ontario, and Impact Economics, based in Yellowknife,

"In the past, we've drafted these strategies and brought them to council for adoption, and members of the public or businesses may raise concerns with them at that stage and a council meeting is not the place where you want to modify or change these kinds of strategies," Heyck said. "(An open house) gives us the opportunity to make the work that has been done to date public, get some more feedback, and refine as needed before the strategy is finalized and goes to council for adoption."

The Powerpoint presentation prepared by the consulting firms, available on the City of Yellowknife website, identified various challenges and opportunities to doing business in Yellowknife. It focuses on five pillars: creating a business-friendly Yellowknife, encouraging a diverse business community, making the city an attractive place to live, making the city a centre for post-secondary education, and creating a dynamic downtown core.

Both Heyck and the consultants' presentation recognized Yellowknife's' strength in supporting aboriginal economic development and suggested looking at ways Yellowknife can share its expertise with other jurisdictions in Canada.

Heyck said council will likely settle on a final strategy this fall in order to accurately prepare for budget deliberations in late November and December.

Tomorrow's open houses are scheduled to run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m., with a 10-minute presentation running every half hour.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.