NorTerra Inc., an aboriginal-ownedmanagement company,is making a foray into the retail sector by acquiring three chains that sell construction supplies in the North and British Columbia.

NorTerrais a joint venture of Inuvialuit Development Corp., representing the Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic, and Nunasi Corp., representing the Inuit of Nunavut. Italready owns an airline, a marine transportation company and an industrial manufacturer.

On Monday, the company announced it was buying Independent Industrial Supply of north-central British Columbia, Northern Industrial Sales of western British Columbia, and Northern Metalic Sales branches in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

The chains account for 12 stores.

"Industrial supplies is one that we think there's quite a bit of upside for [getting] actively involved in supporting the mining industry and resource industry," NorTerra president Carmen Loberg said.

"In this case, we were able to assemble a fairly decent amount of coverage across the North of 60 and in northern B.C."

The newly merged company, to be known as Northern Industrial Sales, will have stores in:

  • Yukon: Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Dawson City.
  • N.W.T.: Yellowknife, Hay River, Norman Wells, Inuvik.
  • B.C.: Prince George, Terrace, Chetwynd, Prince Rupert, Quesnel.

The company didnot say how much the deal was worth.

NorTerra owns the Canadian North airline, Northern Transportation Co. Ltd. and Weldco-Beales, a heavy equipment manufacturer.

The company's headquarters are in Edmonton, with offices in Yellowknife and Hay River, N.W.T. In 2006, it made sales of more than $300 million.

Loberg said between 11 and 15 per cent of the company's employees are aboriginal workers.