Economic Development Officers from across the Sahtu Region gathered in Norman Wells for a workshop from January 31 – February 2. The Sahtu Economic Development Workshop occurs annually and brings representatives from each community together to discuss best practices, successes and challenges.
The workshop offered an opportunity to discuss ways of affecting growth and change in communities through economic development. It included discussions around tools available to help businesses access funds, training opportunities, and programs and services.
Guest speakers include representatives from the NWT Metis Development Fund, the Sahtu Business Development Centre, the Business Development and Investment Corporation, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) and the GNWT. Norman Wells produce grower Brittany Wever also attended and spoke to the participants about the benefits, challenges and potential of commercial agriculture businesses in the north. The workshop provides a networking opportunity and several presenters will continue on to other Sahtu communities following Norman Wells.
Jess Fortner, Manager of Tourism and Parks for the Sahtu Region, says that participants at this year’s conference noted a heightened interest in agriculture, tourism, film, arts and the traditional economy. “Tourism is picking up steam and more people are getting involved in agriculture. With fur prices strong, people are dusting off their traps and snowmobiles and getting back on the land. We’re seeing positive growth in these industries that serve to advance local economic diversification. This workshop helps us identify the best ways to guide and support these areas.”
Economic Development Officers (EDO) are hired through a contribution agreement with community organizations such as the hamlet office or local band. They are tasked with assisting community residents with funding applications, establishing business contacts, and by linking them to advice and training.
Supporting community EDO positions is one way that the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment invests daily, in the fortunes of small businesses with targeted policies, programs and funding initiatives. Last year, the GNWT contributed $18.7 million in grants and contributions to entrepreneurs, businesses and groups with an economic interest across the NWT.