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'Strong like two companies'
Clark Builders and Tlicho Investment Corp. form joint venture

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, May 4, 2013

A new Clark Builders corporation owned by the Tlicho people has been formed.

NNSL photo/graphic

Dave Brothers, vice-president of Northern operations for Clark Builders, signs a partnership agreement between the construction company and the Tlicho Investment Corporation at the corporation's Yellowknife office on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. Alex Nitsiza, Tlicho Investment Corporation chairperson, left; Jasper Lamouelle, president of Tlicho Investment Corporation; Paul Verhesen, president and CEO of Clark Builders; and Dennis Romanson, chief operating officer of Tlicho Investment Corporation, look on. - Thandiwe Vela/NNSL photo

The Northern construction giant officially signed the Tlicho Clark Builders Corp. joint-venture into existence on April 30 with Tlicho Investment Corp., the business arm of the Tlicho Government for the people of Behchoko, Gameti, Wekweeti and Whati.

"Tlicho Clark Builders Corporation as a single entity will be very strong with the support from our head office. It will be a corporation that will be strong like two companies," said Dave Brothers, vice-president of Northern operations for Clark Builders, which is headquartered in Edmonton.

Tlicho Clark Builders is the company's first corporation created with an aboriginal partner.

Paul Verhesen, president and CEO of the privately-held construction company which has maintained $500 million in annual revenues, called the alliance with the Tlicho "the next step" for Clark Builders, which already has an estimated $100 million in annual revenues in the North alone.

"For us this is the next step. This is bringing our game to another level if you will. This gives us the opportunity to have that discussion with the Tlicho, for their folks to work on our sites. And we see great things for the North," said Verhesen. "We see opportunities, projects in the North here that we can benefit by being together. They can bring resources and people, and we bring systems and bigger processes and our capacity as well, so it's a win-win."

Jasper Lamouelle, president of Tlicho Investment Corporation, said the corporation's entrance into the commercial and heavy construction sector will provide training, employment, and capacity-building opportunities for the Tlicho.

"One of our mandates coming down from our shareholders is one where we need to employ the Tlicho. We need to train the Tlicho, and then in turn build capacity," said Lamouelle.

"Over the last year, going through our growth strategy plan, we recognized that the heavy commercial industry is one we needed to get involved in. Not only does it position ourselves in terms of creating skilled labour but we can give back to our community members in terms of training them in the trades."

The Tlicho have formed several strategic partnerships to gain economic advantage across a number of sectors, most notably, Tlicho Logistics Inc., a partnership created in the late 1990s between ATCO Frontec and the Tlicho people. Tlicho Investment Corp. eventually bought out the shares of Tlicho Logistics, which is now a 100 per cent wholly-owned Tlicho company.

"We don't just slap our name on a new company and take a profit. That's not us. We want to build a corporation where we hire and train our own people so that we can eventually take over ourselves," said Lamouelle.

Tlicho and Clark Builders have similar values and goals, he added.

"We're a people-oriented organization within ourselves and they are too. Those are some of the good things that we see can be created with this new company," said Lamouelle. "We can help shape the North."

Tlicho Investment Corp. makes an estimated $100 million per year in revenue, said Lamouelle.

Tlicho Clark Builders Corp. is currently 51 per cent owned by Tlicho Investment Corp..

The joint-venture is Yellowknife-based. Verhesen, who said he was born in Fort Smith, called the formation of the Yellowknife-based company "full circle" for Clark Builders, which was founded in Yellowknife in 1974.

Clark Builders employs about 35 Northerners in permanent full-time positions, employs many more in seasonal positions and has constructed projects in almost every community in the NWT and Nunavut.

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