In what may be the beginning of a new industry in Hay River, the GNWT has awarded a contract to have modular homes built in the community.
Concept Energy Services Ltd. won the contract to construct 19 duplexes, which will then be shipped to various communities.
The project, which could begin gearing up as early as this week and run to March, is expected to create up to 25 jobs.
Mayor Brad Mapes said the project is good news for Hay River.
“It’s going to bring employment to our community that we definitely need,” he said. “There are a lot of ripple effects that will happen. There are a lot of businesses that will benefit from Concept getting that. It’s what we need.”
Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann also welcomed the project.
“It’s going to be a huge boost to the Hay River economy and it’s going to put a number of Northerners to work,” said Schumann. “So I think it’s a good thing for Hay River.”
“It’s really exciting,” said Public Works and Services Minister Caroline Cochrane, who is also responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation.
“These ones will be used by the NWT Housing Corporation but really I see it as a bigger picture,” she said. “This is giving businesses an opportunity to start so that they can expand into the private market is what I’m hoping that will happen.”
Cochrane hopes it will be the beginning of a new industry in the NWT and help diversify the economy.
“Manufacturing has been something that we’ve struggled with in the territories forever but we know that there’s money in there,” she said. “We’ve never been able to see an opportunity to go forward with that in a huge way, and this is a start of what I see as potential for more economy, more jobs within the territories.”
It could stop people from purchasing modular homes from the south and get them built in the North, said Cochrane. “That’s money that’s made in the North and stays in the North.”
Pierre (Rocky) Simpson, the owner and president of Concept Energy Services Ltd., is happy to receive the contract.
“We’ve been fighting to try and get manufacturing recognized and accepted in the North, and especially in Hay River because this is really the best location for it,” he said.
As for whether it means the beginning of a new industry in Hay River, Simpson said his company has previously built more than 100 trailers. He said a few have been used as residences but that most have been for industry.
The industrial trailers were used for offices, sleepers, well site trailers and master control centres for the oil patch.
Constructing residential modular homes is really not much different, said Simpson, noting his company has already built a 20 by 44-foot residential trailer for Little Buffalo River Territorial Park near Fort Resolution.
“It’s just on a bigger scale,” he said of the modular homes.
Simpson said the duplexes will be 20 by 76 feet and each side will have two bedrooms.
They will be moved to communities by truck or barge.
Three will be heading to Ulukhaktok, four to Fort McPherson, two to Deline, three to Fort Simpson, and one each to Fort Good Hope, Behchoko, Fort Providence, Fort Smith and Sachs Harbour. None will be set up in Hay River.
Simpson said the project will create between 15 to 25 jobs, in addition to the 17 people now working at Concept Energy Services.
The company president hopes some of those new jobs can be filled by people from the communities to which the duplexes are headed.
One home will also be built by Yellowknife’s Energy Wall and Building Products and moved to a permanent location in the city.
Energy Wall’s owner Manuel Jorge said he is only going to construct one home at this time because he is new to the modular home business. However, he is confident he can build the kind of home Northerners want and need.
“What it really means for us is that we can actually start manufacturing modular homes in the NWT and there is a huge market for that,” Cochrane said. “Modular homes for the private sector are coming up from the south constantly. If we can support manufacturing of modular homes here then all of the money we spend on homes stays in the North.”
Cochrane said the modular homes will cost between 25 and 48 per cent less than the average “stick-built” homes – a house made of wood constructed entirely or mostly on-site. She added the modular homes will be energy efficient and built to withstand Northern winters, and both contractors will prioritize hiring Northern workers.
The minister did not have an estimated value of the contract in Hay River while Simpson said he would leave it up to the GNWT to provide that information.
The project will provide an opportunity to train people in various trades, he said, adding other local businesses will also benefit by providing building materials.
– John McFadden and Paul Bickford