The GNWT has opened its new Business Incentive Policy (BIP) office in Hay River and hopes to have a full complement of four employees working there early in the new year.
“This move is part of government decentralization,” said Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) Minister David Ramsay, who was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 8. “This government has committed to seeing more of that happen and we’re taking a good, long, hard look at positions that can be moved outside of Yellowknife.”
The office will serve all of the NWT.
Hay River’s Kim Wilkins has been hired as the manager for the office and the competitions for the three other positions – BIP registrar, contract registry and reporting officer – are set to open within a month.
BIP is the program through which northern companies can register to gain greater access to government contracts and work opportunities, essentially taking 15 per cent off their total bids so they can compete with bigger southern-based companies. There are currently approximately 1,300 companies registered with the program.
Kevin Todd, BIP’s director, said he looks forward to seeing all the positions in the new office filled by January or February.
“It’s an open competition and anyone can apply,” he told The Hub, adding that working outside of Yellowknife will give employees a different perspective on the territory as a whole and hopefully inform their work.
“In Yellowknife, it’s a different type of business community,” he said. “Hopefully by moving the positions here, the office will be better able to serve the territory as a whole.”
As for whether the new location would help attract more businesses to get “bipped,” Wilkins said she is inclined to think so.
“I’ve already got two Hay River businesses who want to sign up,” she said.
Todd said the office moving outside of the capital is also indicative of the department’s overall philosophy.
“ITI is unique in that they’re in touch with the business community in every community through regional offices,” he said. “The BIP program has been quite successful at keeping business in the North and has set an example across the territory, I think.”
Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen, who was also present at the official opening, said she is happy to see the start of decentralization and the new positions located in Hay River.
“Hopefully these jobs are just the first of many to be transferred here and we’ll see many more of these events to come,” Groenewegen said.
She also noted that, while getting jobs moved outside of Yellowknife is one of her priorities, she doesn’t want to see decentralization for its own sake.
“It has to make sense,” said Groenewegen. “Advances in technology have allowed for people to work remotely on an increasingly common basis and we have to keep our eyes open for those kinds of opportunities. People can work from satellite locations more than ever.”
Ramsay told The Hub that Hay River is welled served by the MLAs, saying that they are always front and centre looking for more positions to be moved to the community.
The minister emphasized the importance of a resilient and varied economy, including having more economic opportunities accessible outside the capital, and noted that he seems to attend a number of opening ceremonies in Hay River.
“I like cutting ribbons and I like coming to Hay River,” he said. “And I hope there will be more opportunities to do both.”
— Sarah Ladik