Some people think he’s a touch too ambitious. Others think he’s just damn crazy. One thing’s for sure: Justin Ferbey is not going to quit until he’s utterly transformed the tiny yukon village of Carcross from a sleepy summer getaway to a bustling year-round mecca for outdoor adventurists and espresso-fuelled visitors. here’s how he plans to do it.
By Genesee Keevil | Photo by Daren Gallo
Justin Ferbey is nowhere to be seen. It’s 7 p.m. in Carcross. Inside the southern Yukon community’s rec centre, a shabby decommissioned curling rink with dim lighting, a small group of people – territorial government officials, residents, members of the local Carcross/Tagish First Nation – waits for the man who has called them together.
Biding time, some attendees help themselves to lukewarm coffee from a big metal carafe in the corner; others eye the box of Tim Hortons doughnuts someone brought up from Whitehorse, about an hour’s drive away. Without Ferbey, says one government representative, this presentation is a non-starter. Immediately, the room echoes with the sound of squawking collapsible chairs as people turn to chat with their friends.
When Ferbey walks in about 10 minutes later, he’s decidedly unapologetic. “We all know what this meeting’s about,” he says. “I’ve got copies of the project here. Rather than go over it all with you, I’ll let you read it for about 10 minutes, then take questions.” He adds, “I’m going to have a coffee.”
Four years earlier, Ferbey was speaking in front of U.S. ambassadors at the Lester B. Pearson Building in Washington, D.C. Tonight, he’s about to field questions from the understandably cynical citizens of a community numbering fewer than 300 people. As CEO and sole employee of the Carcross/Tagish Development Corporation, it’s Ferbey’s job to bring economic vision to this tiny village, perched on the shores of Bennett Lake. There’s a seasonal ice cream shop here, offering nine flavours to Holland America tourists travelling from Skagway to Whitehorse. There’s a post office, a visitor centre, and a gas station. But that’s about it.
My fav line of the story.. “slick federal employees with a little First Nation heritage in their blood and a lot of gel in their hair. The only difference this time was, Ferbey was one of their own.”
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