Business drive
Small ideas turn to big business despite Northern sparsity

by Ian Elliot
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 06/98) - Business in the North usually swings between two giant magnets -- government and megaprojects -- but small business is becoming increasingly important now that the two historical anchors are either radically downsizing or gone altogether.

Without a long tradition of small business, especially in the tiny communities that dot the far North, entrepreneurs can often use a little help.

Patricia Black of Western Arctic Business Development Services, which provides loans and a full menu of small-business supports to small enterprises in the Delta and surrounding area, says sometimes all it takes is connecting a person with passion and drive to make an idea work with the proper resources.

"Often, we look at the distance and isolation of these places and think therefore business can't survive there," she said on a recent trip to Holman, where her agency has two clients.

But she says the quality of the work in many small communities is so high and the people who do the work are so committed to it, that the distance and isolation become the least important obstacles.

Holman, for example, is a community known for its printmaking, and although it is a long way from the nearest road, a thriving mail-order business is run out of the local arts and crafts centre.

"The bottom line is that the infrastructure can be there, but it's the idea of the person that counts," she said.

"Whether it's making gorgeous prints, whatever, the important thing is to remove the obstacles that may stand in the way of someone really committed to what they do."

Holman is now served by a business services agency in the Kitikmeot since the Community Futures program was downloaded to the territorial government's resources, wildlife and economic development department by the federal government, but she says the clients there prefer to have the services come out of Inuvik because that is what they are used to.

The main thing her agency tries to do is remove stumbling blocks from the way of small businesses and help them find their markets.

"All communities have their own challenges that they face, but the main one is there is only so much money in each community, so they have to bring in money from the south. That way the pie gets bigger for everyone."

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