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Gathering discusses economic plans for Beaufort Delta

Economic Development Officers (EDO) in the Beaufort Delta Region met to review economic development initiatives in all eight communities June 14-15.

Economic development officers Minerva Ward, back left, Debbie Beaudreau, David Cook, Eugene Reese, front left, Michel Lemieux, back right, Michael McLeod and Annie Steen, front left attended an economic development workshop in Inuvik June 14. Joyce Blake and Miki O’Kane also attended the meeting by telephone.
Samantha McKay/NNSL photo

The region's EDOs, who work under the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) Department of Infrastructure, Tourism and Investment (ITI) meet annually to set priorities and develop strategic plans. According to EDO manager Michel Lemieux, this year EDOs decided to hire a consultant to develop a five-year economic development strategy for the Beaufort Delta communities.

Sachs Harbour and Paulatuk EDO Eugene Rees said EDOs have been focused on developing community gardens in all communities over the past four years.

"We want to help with food security. That's an issue that is especially terrible in Sachs Harbour, Paulatuk, Tuktoyaktuk – it's virtually impossible to import fresh fruits and vegetables," Rees said. "We started off slowly … and local people got involved very, very quickly."

He said they have built greenhouses in each community and continue to work with the Inuvik Community Greenhouse to develop them.

He said the greenhouse initiative is growing quickly and aims to empower people to grow their own food and not rely on imported food.

"We hope that people will be able to combine the food they've grown in the greenhouses with their own country foods," he said.

Inuvik EDO Debbie Beaudreau said going forward from the meeting, she would like to see economic development happen in three areas in Inuvik: arts and crafts and local foods, tourism infrastructure and micro-manufacturing.

"We all know that oil and gas kind of went somewhere else – there's no activity in our region anymore … so I think we need to shift our focus onto diversifying our economy," said Beaudreau.

For example, she said she would like to see the technology and skills developed in Aurora College's 10-week Merging Arts and Technology course turned into a profitable business for local artists and craftspeople.

Beaudreau said many of these initiatives have already been started or are on their way, but she would like to see them ramped up.