As the community of Tuktoyaktuk gears up for the opening of its new highway, it's begun to prepare for visitors — starting with giving the community a facelift.
"It was decided that we should do a community beautification project," said mayor Darrel Nasogaluak. "One of the things the community really needs is a coat of paint."
Looking to save on the cost, Tuktoyaktuk's tourism stakeholder group, made up of various community organizations, wanted an affordable way to do the job, that would also be environmentally responsible.
That's when previous SAO Bill Beamish got an idea — after watching an episode of "Dragons Den."
"He'd seen something on [recycled products supplier] Loop Paint and he told me he had an idea and would get back to me the next day," said Nasogaluak.
Down in in Niagara, Ont., president of Loop Recycled Products Josh Wiwcharyk received a phone call from the hamlet.
"I'll never forget it," he said.
"We heard about the beautification project and what Tuk wanted to accomplish… we didn't know exactly how we were going to do it, but we certainly agreed quickly."
That commitment manifested this week in 2,400 gallons of donated paint, stain and trim to the community — at a retail value of approximately $120,000 — by Loop, and Wiwcharyk, with wife Niki and son Jack in tow, arriving in Tuktoyaktuk this week to participate in the start of the beautification project.
Nasogaluak says "the community of Tuk tries to be environmentally friendly," and that the paint provided by Loop fits their mandate.
"We take the paint from your garage or basement and we make it into new paint. We remanufacture it," said Wiwcharyk.
Project creates summer jobs
Painters started Tuesday with the hamlet's fur shop and radio station, but various other community public buildings and homes will also be painted over the course of the summer.
In addition to giving the town some new colours, the $500,000 beautification project will keep those working on the project employed from June to September for the next two summers.
"It's created 15 temporary summer jobs in our community, which is a big deal," said Nasogaluak.
Pat Kuptana is a supervisor on the project, and says he didn't think twice when offered the job.
"It's good for the guys here," he said. "There is hardly any employment here in town with the oil companies all heading out… with the guys here, it gives them four months of the year to have employment."
The community settled on a "jelly bean" colour scheme, hoping that the bright splashes of colour will leave Tuktoyaktuk memorable to tourists once the highway opens in November.
For Wiwcharyk, he says that both the company and his family are the beneficiaries of this new relationship.
"This is an extended relationship… we want to have a long-term relationship with the folks around here and continue to send paint up here," he said. "The fact is we are using recycled paint north of the Arctic Circle, this is a crazy idea.
"It's a really positive note that sometimes great things start with a simple phone call."