Spanning over 39,000 kilometers of land located between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories is the Tłı̨chǫ First Nation. The territory includes the communities of Behchokǫ̀, Gamèti, Wekweètì and Whatì.
The Tłı̨chǫ Government came into effect August 4, 2005, at which time the Band Councils of Behchokö, Gamètì, Wekweetì and Whatì, as well as the Treaty 11 Council business interests, were brought together under the umbrella of Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation (TIC).
Under complete ownership of the Tłı̨chǫ Government for the Tłı̨chǫ people, TIC has a number of businesses and several joint venture partnerships with other groups and companies. TIC’s guiding mission is to enhance the economic self reliance, prosperity, and certainty for Tłı̨chǫ citizens by creating sustainable economic development and provide employment. Additionally, TIC supports Tłı̨chǫ traditional economy, youth involvement in businesses and professional development activities wherever possible.
“My bosses are the TIC Board of Directors, who report to the Chief Executive Council and the Tłı̨chǫ Government,” says Mark Brajer, CEO. “The job of TIC is to amalgamate and operate the economic development arm of the Government, including companies that span several industries, and have entered into various Joint Venture partnerships with other groups and companies throughout Canada.”
TIC specializes in Winter Road Construction, Logistics, Civil Construction, Mining Supply, Aviation, Heavy Equipment Management, Road Construction, and Power Generation, operated under 14 core companies. “We simplified the portfolio to allow the balance of the organization to flourish and deliver a consolidated profit, as well as divest unnecessary assets, and eliminate third party debt to build a stronger financially sustainable future,” says Brajer. “These companies are an investment to make money and also provide jobs for the Tłı̨chǫ people.”
Brajer explains that the TIC is broken into five divisions—those being construction, engineering and environmental operations, site services and labor management, community operations and property management.
“TIC has a store and motel in each of the three remote communities, responsible for providing all the groceries and all the sundry items and everything associated with that,” says Brajer. “Providing community services in the retail stores is only one of the many businesses that we manage through TIC. To me, it is one of the most important. It is vital that we continue to operate the retail operations within the communities, I like to think of the stores as one of the key parts of the community.”
TIC recently expanded business to providing services to a number of other companies including a construction company in Yellowknife.
For many years the TIC has been constructing the community winter road to Whatì, Gamèti, and Wekweètì. The Tłı̨chǫ Highway will provide all-weather access from Highway 3 west of Yellowknife to the community of Whatì. 97 kilometres in length, the $200 million project has meant significant employment and training opportunities for Tłı̨chǫ residents that support the development of a strong northern workforce. Transportation efficiencies will also reduce the cost of living for the region and embrace social opportunities.
“This road is the result of many years of planning, partnerships and hard work by former and present leaders and our collective governments,” says George Mackenzie, Grand Chief of the Tłı̨chǫ Government. “This is the way any projects on Indigenous land should be developed. Our partnership with the GNWT and Kiewit has been a great success for our people and companies, and there is great potential for future projects in our region.”
In the real estate arm, TIC owns over 75 pieces of property, a mix of residential and commercial—most commercial are leased to government and the RCMP. “There’s a lot that we’ve got going on right now,” smiles Brajer.
When asked what his main objectives were when he took on the role of CEO in 2019, Brajer said initially it was important to simplify the business and streamline operations to focus on the ones that were profitable.
“The business was in need of transition,” says Brajer. “Streamlining the company portfolio allowed for TIC to focus on its core businesses.” The results? “We finished the fiscal year 2021 and we’ve been quite profitable this year.”
“After turning the company around, the second big focus was sustainability. We’re now in a better financial state where we’ve put a lot of financial and HR processes in place—something we have been working on diligently over the last two and a half years. We put goal setting as part of our performance management improvements, and we do that every year, right through the entire organization, not just for managers. So, everyone has goals. Everyone has performance reviews. It’s part of how we continually improve the business.”