The NWT Chamber of Commerce offered a reality check after reviewing a recent business survey posted on social media.
An informal survey posted on Jan. 6 to the Official Yellowknife Classifieds and Network Group on Facebook asked: “What businesses or services do you think Yk is missing?”
In hundreds of posts, respondents said there should be various kinds of new restaurants, clothing stores, hunting and tackle shops, a bakery, treatment centre and a performance venue for local artists.
Several southern franchises were suggested, such as Denny’s, Red Lobster and Sport Chek.
The question was posted by Neomi Jayaratne, a member of the Yellowknife Women’s Society, who said she was surprised by the number of responses, although not all of them are applicable to the North.
“I was looking for possible ideas that could be a good business that is socially beneficial as well as profitable,” she told Yellowknifer.
Jenni Bruce, president of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, said attracting the kind of businesses suggested in the post would be difficult.
Two of the biggest barriers are the high cost of doing business and the lack of labour, she said.
“Land is another major restriction, we have no street-front stores available in downtown which makes it really hard for new ventures to open,” she said, adding rent in malls can be too high and there is almost no rental space in Old Town,along Old Airport Road or in Kam Lake.
The chamber suggested discussions about new businesses in the capital should consider Yellowknife in the regional context.
Yellowknife is the hub for the Tlicho via winter road system, with some 625,000 travellers (in 2017) through Yellowknife, with a majority being tourists and health visitors.
Renée Comeau, executive director of the NWT chamber, noted such open-ended Facebook posts have appeared before and she’s “always surprised as to the go to of franchise products when there is usually a very similar independent offering” already in the city, offering up Javaroma to suggestions the we need a Starbucks.
Comeau was particularly impressed with the suggestion for a craft centre or music performance venue.
“We have a lot of extremely talented artists in Yellowknife and through out the NWT. A venue that would allow for local artists to work and display their arts and crafts would be of great value in the downtown core as would a venue to display traditional music and dance and for all performers to have a place to preform,” she said.
“This would also be a huge draw for not only tourist but for locals as well. The options are endless: tours; classes; performances; etc.”
Yellowknifer has reached out to Mayor Rebecca Alty for a comment on how conditions can be improved for new businesses.