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Lures, mines and airlines
Yellowknife businesses endure change through innovation and determination

Complied by Sara Wilson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 30, 2011

Amid a bleak global economy this past year, some Yellowknife businesses pushed past the odds and recorded gains, while others succumbed to tough times.

NNSL photo/graphic

CD Plus employees Noel Hernandez, left, and Jordan Bowden lament the closing of the music and video rental franchise last February. - NNSL file photo

Some city businesses were rewarded for their commitments to community and others broke the past stereotypes to define themselves in a changing market.

Music and movie lovers said farewell to CD Plus, as its Yellowknife store closed its doors last February due to poor sales. The store had to let go three full-time staff.

CD Plus opened its doors in Yellowknife seven-and-a-half years ago after purchasing Top Forty Music in the Centre Square Mall.

When the franchise opened, the store didn't have a problem moving merchandise selling 200 or more copies in their first month of release.

"Now you're lucky to get 50 down in a month," manager Aaron Hernandez said at the time.

Four Yellowknife businesses were recognized for providing services in French in a ceremony held in the Great Hall of the legislative assembly in February.

Arctic Farmer Landscaping, Sam's Monkey Tree and Diamante's Restaurant, Francois Thibault and Diane Fortin were honoured by the Conseil de developpement economique des Territoires du Nord-Ouest.

"I would like to congratulate the businesses and entrepreneurs being recognized here this evening," said Bob McLeod then minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment. "You represent entrepreneurial excellence among francophones in the Northwest Territories."

Blaine Nickel was announced as Det'on Cho RTL Construction's new general manager. The joint-venture company between the Det'on Cho Corporation and RTL Robinson Enterprises is the largest transportation, construction, aggregate crushing and logistics company in the Northwest Territories. Nickel said he was excited to help lead the company, and looks forward to helping it grow.

"It's a great opportunity and I am excited for the chance to help build a completely, truly Northern construction company," said Nickel. "This is a great chance for me to expand my experience."

Ten Diavik employees-working underground were the first Canadian mining workers to receive national certification through the Canadian Mining Credentials Program in March.

The first-of-its-kind pilot program was developed by the Mining Industry Human Council as well as industry members.

The participants from Yellowknife, Fort Simpson, Fort Resolution and Inuvik received their Level 2 underground miner certification during a ceremony at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.

Representatives from aboriginal-owned businesses gathered for a luncheon at First Air's Yellowknife headquarters in April to see the unveiling of the Northern Aboriginal Business Association's (NABA) first aboriginal business directory.

The 232-page directory is a comprehensive list of all aboriginal-owned businesses throughout the NWT.

The association was created in 2010 to promote, create and develop NWT aboriginal business opportunities.

"We've been planning this for nine months. It's been a long time coming and we are really excited. It's a great accomplishment," said Jeanne Morrison, executive director of NABA.

This past year proved to be a record-breaking one for the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce's Spring Trade Show.

Tim Doyle, executive director of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, worked the a d m i s s i o n s desk and said more than 9,000 people attended the event held May 7 and 8. In addition to record pedestrian traffic, 174 businesses took part in 'Yellowknife's greatest indoor show.'

The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) pledged almost $900,000 to strengthen and expand the tourism sector in the Northwest Territories.

The funding will go toward six initiatives valued at $1,104,300.

"These strategic investments will directly support the success of tourism-related businesses in the NWT by developing operator business skills, building the statistical knowledge-base and attracting new visitor dollars to the territory," said CanNor Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

CanNor is also teaming up with the GNWT to deliver an arts and crafts marketing strategy, which is to include an artists' database, retail venues and trade shows. The arts and crafts project is valued at $28,800 over five years.

Yellowknifers John Bray and Chris Kondracki joined forces to create the 'top-selling lure' in the biggest bait and tackle shop in the city. In the first seven weeks since the original product hit Canadian Tire stores nationwide, 5,000 T-Spoon lures were sold, Kondracki told Yellowknifer in June. Kondracki is also the general manager of the department store's Yellowknife location, where the T-Spoons are outselling the hundreds of other makes it carries.

"We had no idea if we were going to sell two or 10,000," Kondracki said. "They're selling better than we thought." The popularity of the T-Spoon lies in its simplicity and novelty, because this spoon lure is actually a teaspoon.

The Det'on Cho nuna joint venture secured its contract to oversee the care and maintenance of the Giant Mine remediation site. The federal government announced July 6 the joint venture, between Det'on Cho Corp. and Nuna Logistics Ltd., would be awarded the 21-month, $14.9-million contract.

"We are committed to supporting the local residents and their community by ensuring the integrity of the care and maintenance of the Giant Mine," Rona Ambrose, minister of the federal Department of Public Works and Government Services, stated in a written statement.

Weaver and Devore hosted a barbecue July 23, to celebrate the family-run business's 75th anniversary. Ken Weaver, 58, said he and his seven siblings have already poured a lifetime into the general store.

"Honestly, I think it's great we made it this long but I'm not so sure that we have another 75 years left in us," the eldest Weaver said.

Weaver said the siblings have been working in the store started by his grandfather, Harry Weaver, and Bud Devore in 1936 since as young as eight and nine years old. About 200 Yellowknifers came out to help the family celebrate their milestone.

BHP Billiton announced in November that the mining giant is considering the sale of its Ekati Diamond Mine. The company shocked the city's mining industry with the announcement and stated it is reviewing its participation in the diamond business.

The potential decision to sell affects Canada's first diamond mine, Ekati as well as Chidliak, Nunavut's diamond exploration project.

"We are doing a strategic review of whether a continued presence in the diamond industry is consistent with our overall group strategy," BHP Billiton spokesman Bronwyn Wilkinson said, declining to disclose details of the review or whether any requests for proposals have been made. "One of the possible outcomes that we would evaluate is a potential sale of all or part of our business, but it is early in the process and we can't speculate about what the outcome of that process will be at this stage."

- With files from Thandiwe Vela, Daron Letts and Guy Quenneville.

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