There’s room for growth for manufacturing in the South Slave if both producers and buyers work together.
For some businesses, that collaboration could represent a serious opportunity to expand output.
“I believe manufacturing is a key economic and employment driver for the whole NWT, but especially for the South Slave,” said Wally Schumann, owner of Poison Painting, a business that manufactures signs, custom car and motorcyle paint schemes, magnets, stencils, decals and t-shirts.
He said there are more than 120 direct jobs in manufacturing in Hay River alone, six of them at his shop, and room for much more if there is more business to be had.
To that end, he and representatives from the Kingland Welding and Truck Shop plus Concept Energy Services, the only NWT manufacturer of portable industrial trailers and camps, met with high-level GNWT employees early January to discuss what needs to be done to promote industry. They are also looking to revive a largely defunct manufacturers association to better voice their concerns to the government.
Kelly Kaylo, assistant deputy minister for economic development with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, told The Hub the key is better communication.
“A lot of the issues seem to centre on communication and a lack of knowledge,” she said. “As one of the biggest customers in the territory, the GNWT needs to know what’s out there.”
Representatives from the three top-buying departments – housing, public works, and transportation – met in Hay River and toured manufacturing facilities, including Poison Painting, Kingland Welding and Truck shop, Arctic Windows, and Concept Energy to better understand their capacity. Kaylo said it was a good first step towards working better together.
“We need to be better at letting them know what the government needs, so that they can either gear up to make it, or not,” she said. “It’s about understanding what this large buyer needs so that they can decide if it’s something they can provide quite easily, or if maybe they want to retool to do it, or if they decide to pass on that particular item.”
Kaylo also said part of the plan moving forward will be to educate GNWT purchasers, whether new to the territory or not, about the businesses operating here.
“It’s about ensuring all our internal processes are in line to support manufacturers,” she said, adding that her team will also be promoting manufacturers to the private sector, like mines and other resource extraction companies. “Businesses want to hire local and buy local. The only reason they wouldn’t is if it’s not there.”
Schumann agreed that there’s a need for more awareness of the businesses working in the territory, especially the South Slave.
“It would mean more jobs in the North and it would mean more products made in the North and used here. What we need is more clarity as to the policies the government has concerning the manufacturing sector,” he said.
“They’ve said they’re going to market us internally and externally. If you’re a purchasing guy in Yellowknife, you don’t know what’s there, you don’t know what we do.”
— Sarah Ladik