BDIC plans rebrand over confusion and ‘reputational challenges’

Do you know who BDIC is? Are you sure you know? Because they’re worried you might not know – or if you do, that you might not like what you know.

The Business and Development Investment Corporation, aka BDIC, is an arm’s-length NWT government institution that gives businesses loans, grants and other support to help them succeed.

But BDIC is now looking to call itself something different. The proposed new name is Prosper NWT.


Appearing before a committee of regular MLAs on Wednesday, BDIC chief executive Joyce Taylor said the planned name change was partly the result of “incredible confusion between various organizations.”

For example, BDIC is a lone vowel apart from BDC, the Business Development Bank of Canada, a federally backed lender that offers similar but not-identical services.

Taylor said a move away from the BDIC name could also “mitigate some of the reputational challenges that we had in the past.”

“The previous name could be problematic,” she told MLAs, agreeing with Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson’s assertion that there had been “some questionable decisions made” regarding past investments.

In its latest annual report, BDIC says it wrote off debt worth $236,000 in 2021-22 and forgave a further $3.5 million – including $1.8 million tied to a tourism business that failed in 2008, $544,000 concerning former Yellowknife pub Twist and Shout, and $593,000 attached to former Enterprise store operator Quyta Holdings.


Forgiving a debt in this context means removing it from the BDIC’s financial statements as the corporation feels it is “no longer able to collect it.”

“The BDIC does concur with the assessment that, in the past, there have been questionable investments,” said Taylor, who assumed her role in 2020.

“Decisions have sometimes been made on a business-by-business decision-making process as opposed to looking at the sustainability of the organization and the portfolio as a whole.

“There is a need to look at investment strategy, because you have to determine your investment strategy by industry, and by region, and set those and align those with the mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories.”


More strategy, more authority

Wednesday’s meeting was held to examine proposed legislation that will allow BDIC to make some changes to the way it works.

Johnson characterized some of those changes as allowing BDIC – or Prosper NWT – to explore more venture capital funding (investing in start-ups in the hope they grow into something self-sustaining) and also increase its lending capacity.

He acknowledged that the “odd bankruptcy is inevitable” given BDIC’s work, which involves taking risks on northern businesses, but asked how that risk is being managed.

“The changes being proposed here aren’t meant to allow BDIC to make bad investments,” responded Caroline Wawzonek, the minister responsible for the corporation.

“It’s meant to allow for BDIC to make more strategic investments, and to give them more authority to do so [while] making sure that we are clarifying the lines between ministerial authority and government authority and BDIC.

“Having that independence there is a positive thing, in terms of ensuring that they’re making good investments while not removing the fact that there has to still be reporting through the government’s processes, so that still allows for that kind of oversight.”

Taylor said the organization was investing in more professional development for staff and governance training for its board, while better using data analytics tools to detect and manage risk.

Some MLAs on the committee struggled to accept the change to Prosper NWT.

“I’m a bit skeptical of the name change … more than a bit,” said Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly, asking to see the report prepared by a consultant that inspired it.

Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby said: “I would prefer to see, if there’s an issue with branding around the BDIC, that we work on fixing the reputation of the BDIC, versus just calling it something different and losing all of that history.”

Wawzonek said the desire for a name change came from BDIC’s board, not the territorial government.

She agreed, though, that BDIC and BDC “sound far too similar.”

The minister said the phrase BDIC sometimes didn’t help separate the corporation from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment. While BDIC and ITI work together, she said, they offer separate programs and do different things.

“The acronym, I gather, doesn’t always translate very well to some Indigenous languages or isn’t pronounceable by many,” Wawzonek said.

“So it sort-of stumbles off and it becomes too easily wrapped up, then, with being the ITI office to which people are attending, often in small communities, rather than knowing that they’re going to seek different services.”

Taylor said Prosper NWT “speaks more to what the BDIC would like to do and accomplish into the future, which would be to bring prosperity into the North.”