Staffing and communications gap plague NRC

The National Research Council's only Whitehorse office has no staff and hasn't supplied money to local technology companies for two years.

The National Research Council’s only Whitehorse office has no staff and hasn’t supplied money to local technology companies for two years.

It was scheduled to close in March 2010, according to a report by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

But that report made a mistake, says the council’s headquarters.

“That’s not accurate,” said Louise Boudreau, the strategic projects officer for the council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program.

Since last year, the office – which props up tech companies with money and advice – is only having a tough time getting the office staffed.

“I’m confused as to why this other report had this different understanding,” said Boudreau.

The office, leased on the Yukon College campus, was staffed until 2009.

Over the last two decades, it has helped businesses sharpen their technological edge.

“We’re still paying the lease fees as of a few weeks ago,” said Boudreau.

The only program run by the National Research Council in the Yukon is the Industrial Research Assistance Program.

The program is being run out of Victoria until someone for Whitehorse can be found.

“It’s a highly technical position,” she said.

“It’s hard to staff those positions, especially when the community is a little bit more rural.”

Three-quarters of the program is providing advice for businesses on technology issues, said Boudreau.

“That’s why this person is supposed to have that technical knowledge,” she said.

The rest is providing grants to help with labour costs.

Those subsidies have slowly dwindled over the years.

In 2004-2005, $159,561 went to Icy Waters, a fish farm in Whitehorse.

The total amount spent the next year fell dramatically. Bardubitzki Software Limited received $18,000.

In 2006-2007, a total of $50,000 went to Icy Waters, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and l’Association franco-yukonnaise.

Another $22,000 went to the chamber of commerce and Yukon Entrepreneurship Society the next year.

The last time the program handed out money was in 2008-2009, when only $14,350 went to Icy Waters.

The program was supposed to end in early 2010, said a report on local business conditions commissioned by Indian and Northern Affairs and published in December 2009.

The report found that local businesses knew very little about government subsidies and advisory services.

“Small business does not feel it is adequately supported by government or the private sector with respect to accurate business advisory services and financing,” says the study.

“There is considerable ignorance with respect to what programs are available and uncertainty as to where to get support.”

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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