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Kivalliq landlord strives to renovate its brand

New CEO of Piruqsaijit on quest to repair company’s damaged name
Troy Holinski, CEO of Piruqsaijit Ltd., said the company was a “disaster” when he was brought on to fix it in 2020. Photo courtesy of Troy Holinski

Though Piruqsaijit tenants had much to complain about over the years regarding the state of their rentals, what was happening with the company behind the scenes might have been even worse.

“It was a disaster,” said Troy Holinski, who was brought on as a consultant and then as the new chief executive officer of Piruqsaijit in 2020.

The Piruqsaijit name is an umbrella company that manages the rental assets for Ilagiiktut Ltd., which owns properties in Rankin Inlet, and Qamanittuaq Development Corp, which has properties in Baker Lake. In total, the company has 171 rented units in Rankin Inlet and 36 in Baker Lake.

Mismanagement over the course of years and multiple management teams resulted in a tattered reputation in Rankin Inlet and Baker Lake and led to absolute disrepair internally.

“The group was struggling terribly at the time,” said Holinski, who used to be president and treasurer of the Alberta Capital Finance Authority.

In addition to mismanagement and negligence, Piruqsaijit had failed to pay utility bills, owing the government upwards of $4 million, said Holinski.

“We didn’t do the things we should have done — we weren’t providing maintenance to units, we weren’t doing the maintenance work that was required, and we weren’t treating people properly.”

When he was hired, Holinski estimated the company had about six months left before it would have gone under.

“The interesting part was when I came into this picture, people told me, ‘There’s cash flow, there’s cash flow,’” said Holinski. “I looked at it and said the only reason there was cash flow at the time was they didn’t pay any of their bills.”

From the bank’s perspective, Piruqsaijit was paying its mortgage bills on time. But they weren’t paying the other ones.

“At one point in time or another, it’s going to catch up to you,” said Holinski. “And it did. We had the government come to us and say something needs to happen because you can’t just continue to not make utility payments to PPD (Petroleum Products Division), QEC (Qulliq Energy Corporation) and all the rest of it.”

Since joining in 2020, Holinski is proud of the progress he’s helped make to bring the company’s foundation back to stability, which included selling some assets to find cash to pay off debts. Within a couple of months, Holinski estimated that “we should have the whole mess cleaned up” and not have anything outstanding anymore.

Public image

But the company’s reputation goes beyond its finances. Holinski is also trying to repair the image of Piruqsaijit in the community.

“I’d hear it when I was in town,” he said. “I heard people talking about it, and I didn’t like that. At the end of the day, I want us to be a community builder.”

To that end, he’s given the company a new focus on addressing tenants’ maintenance needs, with the understanding that not everything is possible in the North.

“I think in the past, people have raised issues and we’ve brushed it off and said, ‘Aw, whatever,’ you know. But now if someone comes and says, ‘Listen, I’ve got a window that’s leaking,’ we’ll look at it, we’ll get in there. Of course, there are some constraints as to what we can provide. We’ve only got so much capital at this point in time.”

One initiative Piruqsaijit sacrificed some of that capital for was giving office space to Isaksimagit Inuusirmi Katujjiqatiggit Embrace Life Council (IIKELC) in Rankin Inlet. The organization is working out of a 1,500-square foot space that was recently renovated in the Arctic Connection building.

“For me personally, there are some things that hit home,” said Holinski, who is based in Edmonton. “To be honest, I didn’t realize or really appreciate the huge problem that suicide was in the communities up there. Out of sight, out of mind. Then we started to have some instances where we knew people related with us who were committing suicide… When it hits close to home, you sit back and reassess, and we said we need to do something.”

And the Embrace Life Council seems pleased with their space.

“This new office space means a lot for IIKELC,” stated executive director Cecile Guerin in an email. “This office space was renovated last spring and we moved in during the month of June 2022. Our staff members are so happy to have their own space to work on projects and programs. This dedicated workplace improves our employees’ well-being. It makes our staff less stressed, more creative and (they) are better able to concentrate. IIKELC will start offering different programs starting next month to community members in Rankin Inlet. We couldn’t do it without this space! Matna Piruqsaijit Ltd.”

And in terms of repairing reputations, Piruqsaijit did frustrate some tenants this winter when the organization sent out a letter stating Starlink satellites would not be allowed to be installed on apartment units. But Holinski gave a little bit of hope that might change.

“It was just not something, especially in the middle of winter, we could jump right into,” he said about Starlink, adding there are a lot of aspects of the service to figure out. “I would definitely not say it’s a dead issue. It’s an issue we have to do a bit more investigation on to figure out how we could do it properly.”