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FIVE ALIVE

Spring 2012 (V6I1)

To mark the fifth anniversary of Yukon, North of Ordinary magazine, we've asked five business leaders to reflect on the past, present, and future of doing business in the territory and offer insights into where the Yukon will be in five years' time.
  photo: www.archbould.com
JOE SPARLING

Joe Sparling is the President of Air North, Yukon’s Airline. In February 2012, Air North celebrated its 35th anniversary, as well as the 10th anniversary of jet service in the Yukon.

      "Aviation in the Yukon has come a long way during the past ten years. Prior to 2002, Whitehorse, like most northern communities, was served by a mainline carrier as part of a traditional ‘hub and spoke’ route network, with all of the airline infrastructure located in the southern hub and only minimum support infrastructure located here in the North.
      “In 2002, the start-up of jet service by Air North, Yukon’s Airline, marked the emergence of aviation as a significant component in our territorial economy. The lower airfares we brought to this market marked the start of a period of price stimulated travel growth.
      “The local economic impact of our jet service has also been significant. Today, Air North, Yukon’s Airline, has 168 fulltime-equivalent employees in the Yukon. Our Yukon payroll last year was more than $9 million, and our employees now represent almost 1.5 percent of the private-sector Yukon workforce. Stated another way, our south scheduled service now accounts for more than 110 full-time, permanent Yukon jobs and more than $6.5 million in annual Yukon payroll. Additionally, more than one in fifteen Yukoners has either an equity or an employment stake in the airline.
      “We started our jet service with a fleet of two B737–200 aircraft and six scheduled flights per week. Today, we are operating 17 flights per week and our jet fleet has grown to four, including a B737–400 and a B737–500. All of our aircraft are maintained, crewed, and administered from our Whitehorse hub, even when they are flying on charter contracts elsewhere. Each new aircraft we add to our fleet represents about 25 new jobs in the Yukon.
      “Aviation is a competitive business, and there is currently a very real potential for the Yukon to be caught up in the escalating turf struggle between Air Canada and WestJet. This would put Yukon jobs and service to our smaller communities at risk, without providing any significant, new, long-term benefits to our market. Canada’s mainline carriers have no trouble seeking support from the government with respect to foreign air carriers wanting increased access to Canadian markets, and the government has no trouble giving that support based upon protecting the interests of Canada as an economic region. The same arguments can be applied to the North as an economic region. The North represents less than one percent of the entire Canadian aviation market, and I feel the interests of the North would be best served if the mainline carriers could be encouraged to expand their presence in the North through code-share arrangements with northern air carriers.
      We have worked hard to make the Yukon the hub of the transportation system instead of the spoke. In order to avoid taking a backwards step in this regard, we need to preserve and grow our share of the market, and we are counting on the continued support and loyalty of our Yukon customers, employees, and shareholders to help us do just that.”


RICH THOMPSON


Rich Thompson is the CEO of Northern Vision Development LP, one of the Yukon's most active real- estate and hotel companies.  Prior to that, Thompson was president and lead strategist of Parallel Strategies Inc. and its subsidiary Zero Gravity Inc., which provided tourism-advertising services to the Yukon from 1994 through 2007.

 
     "The past two years have witnessed significant growth in the Yukon, and there is every reason to believe the Yukon economy will continue to expand. This will be due to the significant mining activity and the resurgence of a robust tourism industry, but also due to a growing understanding of the Yukon as a vibrant and engaging place to work, live, and play. In my view, for the foreseeable future economic growth will be the norm.
      “Managed well, this will be great for the territory. The improved economy has already allowed our company to invest in quality hotel services and commercial and residential real-estate product offerings. This has meant investment in the product and the quality of the people delivering that product. Importantly, that investment has produced further income, which has allowed us to continue the investment cycle. The result: today the product we deliver is much better than only a few short years ago. And this same economic underpinning is spurring our competition to make their own investments and improve their products, which in turn pushes all of us forward. So, we are off to a great start when it comes to delivering a better product to the people who are visiting and the people who choose to live and work here.
     “Certainly the next few years should bring more of the same--growth and the associated economic impact that will continue to allow us to operate profitable enterprises and reinvest. Accordingly, I would expect a somewhat transformed Yukon in five years. A larger and more vibrant Whitehorse, with both more and
enhanced services. A more confident territory. A larger population, for sure, but a population that continues to be respectful and
careful in how it treats the pristine wilderness and tremendous resource base that, along with its colourful and talented people, are its greatest asset. In many respects it will be the same as it is now: populated by some of the friendliest Canadians, who are passionate about their ‘place’ and who entertain visitors with a passion.
      “I have always believed the North is a critical part of what defines Canada, and I believe in the next five years more people will take note of the Yukon and begin to understand the allure of this special place. I think the confidence of Yukoners will grow,
and I believe more and more of Canada’s leading companies will consider it a place that merits their consideration.
      “As always, there will be some setbacks along the way, and we all know that resource economies can be cyclical. But at the end of
the next five years we will be looking back at a truly ‘golden’ time in the Yukon. Hopefully, as we stand and appreciate the view in five years’ time, we will all remember that the successes achieved in this present decade will be due in large part to the foundation laid by those who have always called Yukon home.”


CRAIG HOUGEN & MJ WARSHAWSKI
  photo: www.archbould.com
Husband and wife Craig Hougen and MJ Warshawski operate Coast Mountain Sports, Sportslife, Board Stiff, and Hougen’s Sportslodge, in Whitehorse. Warshawski is president of the Main Street Yukon Society and the Yukon Artist Relief Fund Society, while Hougen sits on the board of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and is president of Great Northern Ski Society, which operates the revitalized Mt. Sima.

     
"Retail in Yukon has grown up. Consumers are rightly insisting on the same level of service and presentation that is available in the larger centres. If local retail businesses don’t meet these needs, it’s easy for a Yukoner to jump on a friendly Air North flight and hit the malls or Robson Street. It’s also easy to press ‘buy’ on any website and have items appear on the doorstep. In five years, it will be even easier. Our direct competitors are no longer just local--they are across Canada and the world.
     “Over the next five years, Yukon retailers
can either fall victim to the increasing competition of the Internet and travel or they
can take advantage of our strong economy
to invest in improved marketing to their
customers, with enhanced merchandise
selection and store presentation. Excellent
customer service, of course, will always be
core to great shopping and great sales.
      “The guiding light to these efforts is old, from Shakespeare, in fact: ‘to thine own self be true.’ Retailers must be true to Yukon and what it means to them and their target markets.
     “In five years, more retailers should be

talking with their markets on their websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. But
the down-home Yukon ‘twist’ will have to be
there. Old-time Yukoners and returning visitors won’t necessarily want to be

‘tweeted,’ but we will have to know how the newer, more tech savvy travellers and Yukoners will want to get their information. We also think that core to any marketing should be cross promotions with Yukon events, associations, and other businesses.
      “Retailers will also have to look at their
merchandise assortment. Because visitors
and locals can buy nationally and internationally, we believe our future markets
will want to see and buy ‘real Yukon’ when
they shop in our territory. They’ll want
professional presentation of items specifically
chosen for our climate, our culture, and our lifestyle. They’ll want items with a designed-in or, better yet, made-in-Yukon tag on them, and they’ll want to see these items presented creatively and professionally.
      “We are delighted with the work that
artists and craftspeople are doing to bring
‘real Yukon’ items to the market. In five years, we hope they get beyond the Christmas craft fairs and start selling year-round in stores like ours and beyond. We are pleased that our governments have started to recognize the importance of our community centres with developments like Carcross and the Whitehorse wharf. We hope they take the next steps to work with our retail and cultural groups to bring life and trade to these developments. We hope they start to mine our cultural groups for their world-class offerings.
     “Five years from now, retail in Yukon
should have more ‘real Yukon.’ It should be
Yukon warmth and know-how combined with big city marketing, merchandising, and professionalism.”

MURRAY ARSENAULT
    photo: www.archbould.com
Murray Arsenault is the General Manager of Dakwakada Development Corporation, a privately held investment firm based in Whitehorse whose sole shareholder is the Champagne and Aishihik Trust, an
organization whose purpose is to hold and manage most investment and business assets of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.
Dakwakada's investments in the construction and manufacturing sector include Castle Rock Enterprises, Kilrich Industries Ltd., and the RAB Energy Group/Northerm.


      “From Dakwakada Development Corporation’s perspective, the outlook for the Yukon economy looks pretty good over the next several years. Infrastructure spending and the general boost in economic activity from the mining industry have the company
looking for more staff and expanding their facilities.
      “We are always cautious when making new investments, but right now the rewards of investing in the Yukon economy outweigh the risks. As long as the developing economies of the world continue to grow, there will be continued demand for the Yukon’s resources. However, we are also keeping a wary eye on the sovereign debt crisis in Europe. There are a lot of countries that have way too much debt, a lot of which is coming due this year. So far, their financial system is holding together, but a loss of investor confidence in those governments’ ability to repay the loans in places like Greece, Italy, or Portugal could cause a domino effect that starts to shut down parts of the global financial system. If that happens, it could hurt the ability of large firms to raise the funds they need to invest in the Yukon’s resources.
    “Government spending still matters, but not as much as it used to, as there is more private-sector activity in the Yukon economy these days. The federal government is currently conducting spending reviews, which might eventually impact the Yukon, but, at
least for now, infrastructure spending at all levels of government is a big plus for the economy.
     “Adaptation and innovation will sustain our growth and diversify our economy for the long term. We need to recognize the value that northern know-how and innovation has created and use that to build our future. [Furthermore, it is important to remember that any] product that is inefficient to ship represents an opportunity for a local company. This is the type of growth that will diversify Yukon’s economy.
     “The biggest local problem we face right now is a shortage of workers, particularly skilled staff, and a place for them to live. The
local housing crisis in the Whitehorse area is a real threat to the ability of the Yukon to recruit employees and take advantage of
the current economic opportunities.
      “There is private-sector interest in being part of the solution. Local firms are interested in land development, and, with timely access to land this summer, the private sector can feed the local marketplace with the types of lots Yukoners are looking for.
      “We believe the continued maturation of First Nations and their development corporations can provide an excellent source of venture capital investment in the Yukon economy.
     “We see a strong five-year period ahead for the Yukon. With stable government and a good economy, we expect to be making
further investments in the Yukon in the near future.”

SHAWN RYAN
& CATHY WOOD
                  photo: www.archbould.com

Husband-and-wife team Shawn Ryan and Cathy Wood are the chief architects of the Yukon’s so-called “second gold rush.” Prospecting in the territory since 1996, their company, Ryanwood Exploration, Inc., has uncovered gold deposits thought to contain millions of ounces, which spurred the largest Yukon staking rush in over 100 years. Ryan is now president of Ryan Gold Corp., a publicly traded gold-exploration company.

      Ryan: “In the next five years there should be quite a few new discoveries with our intensive exploration right now. We’re probably going to have at least three or four new ones. And the ones that we already have are going to get more advanced, such as the ATAC [Resources Ltd.] project and the Coffee project with Kaminak [Gold Corp]. The Victoria Gold project at Dublin Gulch, if they aren’t into production by then they’ll be close.
Same with the Casino Gold Project.
      “But as far as the exploration goes, there’ll be a lot more confidence in the Yukon with recent and future discoveries. Those will
fuel the fire for exploration. The Yukon has been pretty sleepy for quite a few years now, so this will perk it up.
      “The White and the Coffee and ATAC projects, they basically started with soil sampling and now they are well into drilling and developing ore bodies. They’re probably midstream in their cycle, as they’ve been at it for 2–3 years in a cycle that’s about 5–7 years. Hopefully they’ll be able to come up with feasibility studies so they can know if they want to make these places a mine or not.
     “Nobody really knows at this point how much is going to come out of the ground until all the studies are done. Dublin Gulch--they found that deposit in 1991. The Minto deposit was found over 30 years ago, and they just went into production about four or five years ago. Sometimes these things go dormant for a while. We have the discovery, but you’re not usually going to be mining it right away. That’s why we have these feasibility studies--a lot of them--to see if it’s doable.
     “If we’re lucky in the next five years, we’ll have maybe two or three deposits going into production, and the White and the Coffee and the ATAC projects maybe going into production five or ten years from now.
      “Anybody that’s got a heartbeat and wants to work right now does have the opportunity for a job. Any entrepreneur, whether it’s someone who wants to start a cleaning business or drilling company, all the suppliers, from fuel to catering--it’s going to put pressure on the Yukon. They’re estimating the Casino mine would cost $2.5 billion dollars to put into production. You drop
that into the Yukon economy and it has a huge impact.”
     Wood: “With these claims going into production and more discoveries, I do see more people coming to the Yukon and making it their home because it’s a great place. I like the idea that local entities, such as the college and other places, are looking at work programs and education that can keep people here and train people here. I also see a lot of young people that are successful here. They can make a good living or they have been making a good living; they can afford a family and their own home, and
they don’t have to go Outside.
     “As a sector develops, like exploration or mining, our education will also develop with it. It’s starting to happen, where there’s
programming here to train people to work in those sectors. I’m hoping in five years there will be college and university degrees to train people to work the jobs that are here.” Y

 
 
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