Staff housing is good business
Esso into Norman Wells real estate in a big way

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 24/97) - At a time when government departments are getting out of staff housing, Imperial Oil is doing just the opposite.

"Imperial Oil plans to be here for a significant amount of time," said Gordon Deets, area manager in Norman Wells for Imperial Oil Resources Ltd.

The decision to move the entire workforce to Norman Wells has been a positive one and it's made a significant difference to the town, said Deets.

No longer a fly-in, fly-out operation in Norman Wells, Imperial Oil made the decision a few years ago to move its operations staff to Norman Wells.

The company has since built 22 new homes for its staff. The oil company owns all but three homes, which it leases.

What made this venture particularly attractive was that the municipal infrastructure was already in place, said Deets.

A cost-benefit analysis showed it would cost about the same to provide housing as opposed to flying staff in, he explained.

Altogether, Esso has about 50 houses, duplexes and apartments in Norman Wells.

Esso moves staff into Norman Wells for a fixed term of five years with an option to extend for two years if employees request it.

"We do what we need to do to attract a competitive workforce and one of the things we've had to do is build houses."

Esso has been providing some staff housing for the past 75 years in Norman Wells.

Despite closure of the refinery last June and the loss of 15 full and part-time jobs, Esso is still active in the community.

The oil company currently employs about 70 workers at its central processing facility in Norman Wells.

In the boom days of the oil industry, Esso had its own jet and flew employees in from Calgary.