Welcome to Watson Lake sign photographed in 2005. (Matt and Bess/Wikimedia Commons)

Watson Lake to focus on economic development

Community receives close to $50,000 for project

Economic development will be a major focus for Watson Lake officials over the next 10 months after the Yukon government announced $49,700 in funding from the regional economic development fund for the community.

There will be four major initiatives within the project including two studies: one focused on underused land in the community and ways to incentivize development, and another that will explore the role of tax exemptions and grants in economic development with the eventual goal of developing a policy around exemptions and grants.

The other two initiatives will see an update to the town’s procurement policy to include provisions for local spending and “value-driven” procurement along with research into how the community can become a leading destination on the Alaska Highway.

Watson Lake Mayor Cheryl O’Brien said in a June 10 interview town officials were pleased to learn about the funding approval and are ready to get to work on it.

Council and town staff are scheduled to meet later in the week to decide exactly how to go about getting the work done.

Given the amount of work involved, O’Brien said the community will put it out to either one or two requests for proposals. She suggested it may be beneficial to split up the initiatives into two contracts, but noted that will ultimately be decided at the meeting later this week.

She expects any RFPs will be out by around June 20 and she would like to see any contractors in place by mid-to-late July in order to have the work done by the March 30, 2020 deadline.

“We definitely want (a contractor from) the Yukon,” O’Brien said, adding that it would be even better if they were local to Watson Lake.

While it might not be possible to find local contractors there who can immediately get to work on the project, she said the town will be looking for a contractor or contractors (depending on what direction is taken) who are familiar with the town.

“It has to be someone who knows Watson Lake,” she said, emphasizing that specific plans have not yet been set and more will be known following the meeting later this week.

O’Brien said she’s especially looking forward to working with the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce and other NGOs to explore opportunities for economic development.

As Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai said in a June 6 statement: “Watson Lake has great potential to become a leading tourist destination along the Alaska Highway and this funding will help identify and maximize economic growth and development opportunities for local businesses and residents. We are proud to support regional economic development projects as part of our commitment to diversify and grow Yukon’s economy.”

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddel@yukon-news.com

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