Outgoing Naujaat Co-op president Pio Kopak had excellent news for members at the annual general meeting held Nov. 24 – $1 million is returning to members’ accounts by way of dividends.
“As the president of the Co-op, it’s exciting for me to see the people shopping at the Co-op receive their patronage pay-back,” Kopak said.
Kopak, a heavy equipment operator with the Hamlet, has been president for roughly four years. He started out as a regular board member when he was first nominated, then became vice-president for a couple of years. He’s just been reelected to the board. Elections for the executive will take place at the first meeting.
“I like being a board member with the Naujaat Co-op because I like to help people. I like helping the community,” he said.
Along with Kopak, Michel Akkuardjuk, Peter Manik, Lammiki Maliki and Mary Tuktudjuk remain on the board, with former MLA Steve Mapsalak and Pierretta Kaunak elected to replace Jimmy Immingak and Mary Kopak.
The re-elected Kopak says Co-op members didn’t receive dividends for quite some time until they got a good manager.
“In 2009 we started getting (dividends) back to the members,” he said. “And since then we’ve been getting (dividends) every year.”
Since 2009, the Co-op has consistently delivered roughly $1 million in dividends annually.
That represents about $11 million in sales each year.
“You can tell the people support the Co-op,” said general manager Troy LeBlanc, who returned to the community in 2015.
Kopak says a good manager is an important factor in that success.
“It’s always hard to find a really good manager for the stores. Luckily, we’ve had really good managers. Before we had Troy we had John Kaufmann. He was really good, too,” said Kopak.
The 50-year-old Naujaat Co-op is a member-owned enterprise. It is also the Calm Air agent in Naujaat, the cable-TV provider, and a hotel and rental-property owner. Further, the business holds the fuel contract with the Government of Nunavut, handles air-cargo delivery when needed, and owns a separate Tundra Take-out and convenience store.
At 40 employees, the Co-op is one of the largest employers in the community.
“The Hamlet might have more,” said LeBlanc.
“The Co-op is really involved with the community. The Co-op donated $50,000 to the Hamlet to get a concrete (base) for the arena. And other societies, like Search and Rescue. All those societies, when they ask for a donation, we always try to help them,” said Kopak.
In total, the Co-op donated $88,000 this past year.
There are roughly 530 active members in the community of 1100.
“That a very good share of the adult population. I’d say of 18 and over, you’ve probably got 90 per cent, because almost 50 per cent is under the age of 18. The second you turn 18, 19, you get a Co-op membership. It’s like a ritual, in a sense,” said LeBlanc.
Kopak says he encourages people to shop at the Co-op so they can see patronage pay-backs every year.
“Every person that shops there is pretty much a member. Each person that becomes a member buys one share in the Co-op and then their purchases are all recorded. They need to meet a minimum amount of equity in the Co-op and once they’ve reached that minimum amount they start getting a percentage back on their account,” said LeBlanc, adding it takes a person a year or two after becoming a member to start receiving 10 to 20 per cent in dividends.
“If you’re a person that spent $100,000 and you’re getting 10 per cent back, you’re getting $10,000.”
The dividends can be used to buy items in the future, or pay off debt on an existing long-term loan for larger items.
“It helps lots of people when they get patronage pay-back,” said Kopak.
“They buy a lot of groceries, or even purchase a Yamaha or Honda.”
The Naujaat Co-op passes on dividends in two instalments, in December and May.
There is a Northern store in the community, and LeBlanc says the stores are competitive.
“We do price checks. They do theirs. We do ours. We’re more on some, less on some, same on lots – it varies. But we’re competitive almost the same. They come check us out and adjust the price. We go check them out, then we adjust the price,” said LeBlanc.
“It’s kind of like a small, little war. It goes back and forth – a nickel here, a nickel there, 20 cents here, 15 cents there. But we have 80 per cent of the business, I believe, in our community. ”
LeBlanc recalls an Elder speaking up at the annual general meeting.
“He threw a question at myself and the board and he said, ‘Of our net savings each year how much of that goes back to the people?’ We told him, and he said, ‘There you go, people. This is why we shop at our Co-op. Our neighbour down the street doesn’t give us anything back.'”
Members receive just shy of 80 per cent of the Co-op’s net savings, said LeBlanc.
“The Co-op is doing really well in Naujaat, even though we’ve got two stores. We’re doing really well for the community,” said Kopak.