Mr. Speaker, small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone of our community and regional economies.
To encourage economic diversity and sustainability, the Government of the Northwest Territories has long supported the interests and growth of this highly valued segment of the North’s economic community through a variety of programs and services.
As we mark Small Business Week this year, the GNWT is moving forward with the implementation of its NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy. This Strategy offers a plan to expand and diversify the NWT economy outside of its rich resource sector, in areas such as agriculture, tourism, fishing, manufacturing and the traditional economies.
Later today, I will be tabling the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy Implementation Plan that maps out the priorities, methods and resources to address the Strategy’s 117 recommended actions.
It reflects, in part, our commitment to improve supports to NWT businesses and to grow a stable and attractive entrepreneurial environment.
The work of ITI, along with our partners, has confirmed that there are great opportunities for us to balance and diversify our economy in all regions and in all sectors. Our partners, including the NWT Chamber of Commerce, the NWT Association of Communities, the Northern Aboriginal Business Association, and Canada’s Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), will be integral as we work to implement the Strategy’s recommendations.
The engagement process that informed the Economic Opportunities Strategy also offered valuable insights into how we deliver business support programs and services. We are now addressing many of the challenges and barriers that were identified and acting on the initiatives and ideas that were identified.
We are addressing issues of red tape. Our planned actions on 11 of the recommendations identified in the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy are designed to better target, streamline and coordinate government programs and services.
We are also finding ways to better target government resources and funding to realize identified regional priorities; to do a better job of promoting and marketing programs and services that are available through government to support NWT businesses; and to deliver more of our information and services on line.
Though this Strategy is in its early days, we are already seeing its benefits.
Our destination marketing organization, NWT Tourism, is operating the newly established Conference Bureau, which was a recommendation of the Strategy. The Conference Bureau better positions this territory to attract more business travellers and provide spin-off benefits for transportation suppliers, hotels, restaurants, artisans and tour operators.
The Economic Opportunities Strategy also recommended working to expand the export and domestic market of Great Slave Lake Fish. With industry feedback, we have created a new brand, point of purchase materials, packaging, and promotional items for producers and retailers to help market the NWT’s fresh fish product. We are also proposing $1.5 million in 2015-16, and will be looking for partners to replace the fishing industry’s out-dated federal infrastructure, and to generate new capital to stimulate an era of self-sufficiency for our commercial fishing industry.
Economic diversity and sustainability is, foremost, reliant on a competitive business environment in which NWT residents have the tools to invest, overcome challenges, and prosper.
On April 1, the Business Development and Investment Corporation will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Over the last decade, the BDIC has been serving small businesses across the NWT – offering loans, grants, business information, and support.
In the coming years, the BDIC will spearhead a number of services to further assist small businesses. Initiatives include developing a framework that will connect NWT businesses with opportunities around the globe, and expanding its small business training and counselling services. These services will provide small businesses with national and cross-border networking, trade opportunities, and business mentorship.
Through the evolution of business support programs and services, ITI and the BDIC will continue to excel as essential resources for economic development in the NWT.
Mr. Speaker, the responsibility of developing a competitive economic environment belongs to us all as we work to achieve our goal of a diversified economy that provides all communities with opportunities and choices.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.