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Outfitters account for half of business support in Yellowknife
More than $435K total doled out through SEED funding

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Three former caribou outfitters accounted for half of the financial support given to Yellowknife-based businesses and organizations under the GNWT's primary business assistance program last year.

NNSL photo/graphic

Amanda Peterson, co-owner of J Group Ltd., left, said the $113,000 her company received from the GNWT last fiscal year was used to diversify J Group, which was forced to redefine itself after caribou hunts previously the company's bread and butter were made off limits in the NWT. Here, she is pictured with Peterson's Point Lake Lodge guide Egan Wuth, middle, and John Huyer, a participant in a nature and wildlife workshop hosted last summer at the lodge. - photo courtesy of Robert Berdan

J. Group Ltd., True North Safaris and Warburton Outfitters received $219,300 in financial assistance during the 2009-2010 fiscal year from the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) policy, according to a grant and contributions report released by the department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) last October.

J Group which owns Peterson's Point Lake Lodge and its recent offshoot, My Backyard Tours received $113,000 in support, while True North Safaris and Warburton Outfitters received $56,300 and $50,000, respectively. (See our Fact File for a list of the Top 25 SEED Recipients.)

In the case of J Group which was founded in the early 1980s as a caribou outfitting operation the money was used to diversify the company in the wake of the suspension of caribou hunting in the NWT, said co-owner Amanda Peterson.

Last summer, Peterson and her partners formed My Backyard Tours, which offers guided tours of Yellowknife, its art galleries and the city surroundings, including the popular Cameron Falls walking trail.

The company also launched a nature and wildlife photography workshop, the majority of which takes place near Peterson's Point Lake Lodge, located 346 km north of Yellowknife.

In addition, the lodge entered the fly fishing market, taking part in an introduction to fly fishing workshop held by ITI last year

"Those are some of the things we're doing that are sort of assisting in generating some new revenue," said Peterson,

But while My Backyard Tours has become increasingly known among conference planners, the operating environment for J Group is "notably different" from its heyday as a caribou outfitter, she added.

"It's hard to replace a $6,000 trip with a $50 tour," said Peterson.

Other funding

Collectively, Yellowknife-based businesses and other groups received $435,865 in assistance during the fiscal year.

After former caribou outfitters, the next largest SEED benefactor among the business community was Northern Lights operator Aurora Village, owned by former premier Don Morin.

While unsure specifically how his $29,696 grant was invested, Morin said his business which shepherds hundreds of Japanese visitors to a site off the Ingraham trail to view aurora has made a number of advancements in the last two years.

"We made the dining hall three times the size," he said, adding that the seating capacity has increased to 150 from 60. "We've got a liquor licence. We got hydro (power) put into our camp ... We don't have a generator anymore, so we can market (ourselves) as a green camp."

Videogaming hot spot Frostbyte Cafe received $15,000 in support.

Marcel Charland, co-owner of the cafe, said the money was used to relaunch the cafe in its new location on 49 Street.

The cafe moved there in mid-2009 after its original location on Franklin Avenue flooded.

"Most of it went towards advertising and making sure people knew our new location and whatnot," said Charland.

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