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Under Aurora Skies

What do Brad Mapes and Paul Simon have in common?

We're glad you asked.

When Mapes was giving The Hub a tour of the new industrial park he has under development in the northwest section of Enterprise last week, he said something reminiscent of Paul Simon – he of Simon and Garfunkel fame and a celebrated solo artist.

As we were driving around the massive site, which Mapes has been working to develop for eight years, he noted he had often been asked when the project would begin, and if it would have been developed sooner if a big corporation had taken it on.

For some curious reason, that brought back the time many years ago when Paul Simon released his solo album Graceland, which featured the song Under African Skies.

It might be hard to imagine looking back from today, but pop music once had the power to surprise with new and original sounds, and even be a cultural force.

Graceland, released in 1986, featured a variety of sounds from around the world, including a prominent role for black South African artists and their unique music.

However, Simon faced some harsh criticism, including accusations of breaking a cultural boycott against South Africa because of apartheid and of cultural appropriation.

To the latter charge, Paul Simon noted other artists could have created something like Graceland, but he actually did it.

Doing something is always better than should have done it, or could have done it.

The same for Mapes and his AWP Industrial Park.

The ingredients for the endeavour have been around for a very long time. There was nothing stopping larger companies from starting a similar project. The highway and railway have passed right by the site for decades. Trees have been growing for eons. And the diamond mines have been operating for years.

Perhaps larger corporations might have been able to get the project going sooner, but the fact is they didn't. As far as we can tell, no large company even thought about it.

And we are certain that no large corporation would have worked as hard on the project as Brad Mapes.

We have talked with Mapes about the project many times over the years, and heard it discussed at numerous meetings.

To be quite honest, we believe most people – whether private businessperson or large corporation – would have abandoned it a long time ago. If you want to test your commitment to an idea, try getting various groups and governments in the NWT to agree to it.

It took a person like Mapes – with his vision, patience, determination and business acumen – to get the project going.

We have absolutely no idea what kind of music Brad Mapes enjoys, especially to unwind after eight years of work, but we would suggest Graceland. It just seems appropriate.