While the Hatchet Lake Denesuline Nation may be facing challenges in housing and in the cost of living, the community is doing what they can to make strides in economic development.
Anne Robillard, the CEO of the Hatchet Lake Development Limited Partnership said the role of Northern Wild Fisheries, which has a fish processing plant in the community, is expanding.
“We had our first shipment with Federated Co-op across the country; it’ll be hitting the stores with our label on it,” Robillard said. “We sent some samples [to the] US as well, and also Europe.”
Robillard said if the marketing strategy doesn’t work out, there are always other plans in the works to continue the development partnership’s growth. She said the fishery is assessing the value of moving into Manitoba as well in order to keep up with the demands of the Federated Co-op.
The processing plant employs 25 people according to Robillard who are responsible for filleting whitefish like Pike or Walleye and lake trout.
The Development Partnership’s CEO estimated the processing plant in Hatchet Lake is about one third of the size of the recently opened fish processing plant in Île-à-la-Crosse. A partnership appears to be forming between the two northern fish producers.
“We’re talking of a partnership as well; we’re going to be quite dependant on their fish because they’re [Canadian Food Inspection Agency] approved as well,” Robillard said. “They’re learning from us, and we’re learning from them… I was quite impressed with what they’ve done.”
She highlighted high costs and lack of access as major challenges the development partnership faces going forward.
“We only have five months out of the year for road access, and that’s not enough to meet the capacity and the demand of the community,” Robillard said. “The vessel [we use] in the summer time is very small, and the ice road can only take so much weight.”
She said year-round access to Hatchet and Wollaston Lake would allow the processing plant to export higher volumes of fish more consistently, and allow the development partnership to achieve their full potential. Previously, Robillard said she would like to see the partnership’s employee total effectively triple to 300 people within five years.
Aside from fish plant operations, the Hatchet Lake Development Limited Partnership is diversifying its portfolio. The company has also submitted bids on construction contracts around the community and in the North.
The group also focuses on training and developing employment and leadership skills among community members. Robillard said her goal for the development partnership is to create a self-sustaining community through strong business and job opportunities.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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