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NWT suffers building permit pinch

David Ryan
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 18/06) - The value of NWT building permits dropped this year to nearly half of 2005 totals, but construction companies and government remain optimistic for 2007.

According to a recent Statistics Canada report, the value of permits in the NWT fell by 47.1 per cent in 2006.

The total value came in at $35.3 million between January and October compared to $66.7 million for the same period last year.

The value for residential building permits dropped by 39.9 per cent in 2006 compared to 52.3 per cent for non-residential permits, according to the report.

"It is cooling down," said Derrick Weitzel, manager at Arctic Builders in Inuvik.

With the Mackenzie Gas Project decision still up in the air, some companies have made their initial investments and are holding off on any further construction, he said.

A decline in construction in the Mackenzie Delta hasn't meant any layoffs at the company. Arctic Builders has branched out in the last number of years, doing a variety of carpentry and painting work along with its heavy equipment operation, Weitzel said.

"We have been growing a bit and diversifying," he said.

The growth rate in the NWT is slowing somewhat, but large construction projects in the North can often skew data, said Brendan Bell, minister of industry, tourism and investment.

While major construction projects may have been down this year, 2006 was a year "to catch our breath," and prepare for projects on the horizon, said Bell.

The economy in the NWT still remains strong as the territories' unemployment rate remains one of the lowest in Canada and territorial gross domestic product growth is strong, he said.

"Overall the signals taken together paint a positive picture for the economy," said Bell.

More large commercial and institutional construction projects should happen in 2007 after a slight slow down this year, said Don Worrall, executive director with the NWT Construction Association.

Alden Vogt, owner of Fort Smith Construction, is also anticipating more projects in the South Slave region next year.

"It's only going to go up," he said.

Fort Smith Construction normally employees five to 12 workers and the company handled enough small contracts over the year that it doesn't anticipate any layoffs, he said.