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Town talks economic development
Strategy toward building economy being developed with outside help

Elaine Anselmi
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tourism, Northern research and emerging technologies have been identified by the Town of Inuvik as areas of opportunity for development in the community.

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Economic development consultant Paul Blais asked for feedback about an economic development strategy from town council at the Dec. 8 following the committee of the whole meeting. - Elaine Anselmi/NNSL photo

"You've also made it clear that you don't want to limit opportunities to that," said Paul Blais, principal with economic development consultancy firm Millier Dickinson Blais, during a special committee meeting on Dec. 8 at town hall.

"We'll be evaluating those, charting out the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and advantages and disadvantages."

The Town of Inuvik has sought outside advice on building an economic development strategy for the community, to create what Mayor Floyd Roland called a "living document."

"We expect that as councils move on, some of this will be updated and renewed and some of it will be on it for a long time," said Roland.

Asked what economic development means to the Town of Inuvik, Coun. Joe Lavoie said seeing the growth of the community and new businesses opening was key to him.

Coun. Terry Halifax said that jobs, in particular stable jobs that are not tied to fluctuations in resources, are an essential part of economic development. With such a high cost of living, Coun.Derek Lindsay said attracting development has been a challenge, particularly when the job market is heavily reliant on government positions.

"Being a government community for so long hasn't given the business community a chance to evolve," said Lindsay. "We don't have some of the amenities they do down south . basically because the cost of living is so high up here. We have to find a way to drive it down."

Roland noted that being a government town also has its benefits, in terms of maintaining a certain population level and the community has seen a number of capital projects that offered local work. He cautioned that those sort of projects could be drying up.

"Those big projects don't happen very often and we've gone through a lifecycle in a sense. All of those core government facilities have been replaced and renewed," said Roland.

"Those type of projects for contractors in town are not going to be as much as what we've seen. The hospital and school, the office building, those types of projects are going to be few and far between."

After the construction of a new RCMP detachment, Lindsay said there was the possibility of a construction recession.

Thus, Roland said diversification of industry is necessary in the community. In order to garner the support of the community in building an economic development plan, Blais recommended council identify the existing strengths and assets of the community to build from.

The small-town charm and friendliness of the community, recreational and community facilities, various annual events and sites of significance such as the Igloo church were recognized as important features of the community. In terms of opportunities, Coun. Clarence Wood said an immediate focus could be marketing the ice road that, following the completion of the highway extension to Tuktoyaktuk, would no longer be built.

"Our window is very narrow. Three years and that ice road won't be around anymore," said Wood, adding that it should be marketed as a "must-see" in Canada.

Senior administrative officer Grant Hood said the food industry is one area that Inuvik could see significant improvement.

"We have a lack of restaurants in town and that really does hurt from a tourism point of view," said Hood.

Also in line with tourism, councillors agreed the community should be marketing its Arctic location - noting that Yellowknife is often seen as an Arctic highlight, despite its locale south of the Arctic Circle. Following consultation with both city administration and community members, Blais will return to Inuvik in March to present a draft of the economic development strategy.

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