As leaders we all share the same objective: “to make the lives of our people better.” This means an improved quality of life for our membership, which includes better housing, training and education, health and social programs, infrastructure, cultural and traditional learning, employment opportunities and opportunities for economic development.
In pursuit of this objective, a change has already begun in several of our successful First Nations’ communities. There are now many new and exciting opportunities for our people. The change that is occurring is evidenced by our Nations developing our own modern economies. During this period of change, we must share, communicate, and support each other in our common goals.
Many of the positive changes that are occurring in successful First Nations communities area a direct result of an increased focus on Economic Development. This means the creation of businesses and projects that will increase the generation of own source revenue. To accomplish this, successful First Nations have created and established an Economic Development Corporation or Authority that separates politics and business, and develops, directs and oversees the business interests, investments, and opportunities of the First Nation.
There are several excellent success stories in First Nation country that have been instrumental in generating revenue and increasing employment opportunities for their communities. Some examples of these are the Lac La Ronge Kitsaki Development Corporation, Whitecap Development Corporation, Osooyoos (B.C.) Indian Band Development Corporation and Westbank First Nation (B.C.), to name but a few. All of these have been extremely successful in the business world through the direction of their Economic Development Authorities. It has meant generating more revenue and creating more jobs for their members. Some have seen their unemployment decrease from 75% to 5% (example: Whitecap First Nation.)
Muskoday First Nation has chosen to follow the lead of these successful First Nations. On July 22, 2014 Muskoday hosted a 1 day Economic Development Symposium to explore the initiative of creating a business arm for Muskoday which would be the Muskoday Economic Development Authority.
The Symposium was attended by all Muskoday Council members, as well as the Lands Department and representation from the Muskoday Elders group. The Symposium was intended to advise MFN Chief and Council of the benefits of utilizing an Economic Development Authority to analyse, research, direct and oversee the potential and viability of existing, and potential, business opportunities for Muskoday.
The Economic Development Authority would be comprised of a Board of Directors, (5 – 7), and a CEO, who have experience and expertise in a number of critical business areas such as legal, banking, business management, risk analysis, small business, SWOT analysis, and research and development. It would also include a Business Charter, which would outline the terms and conditions under which the Authority would be regulated by.
Presentations were given by the following, who have been integral in the development of a number of successful First Nations Economic Development Corporations:
Senator Harry Cook: former Chief of La Ronge band and the driving force behind the creation of the Kitsaki Development Corporation.
Darrell Balkwill: CEO of the Whitecap Development Corporation, and former General Manager of Economic development for the Saskatoon Tribal Council.
Guy Lonechild: Past Grand Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations; owner of Lonechild and Associates Consulting, with an emphasis on Community Development and Economic Development
James Leier: Preferred Choice Economic Development Consultant
Wilfred Jimmy: Professional banker and consultant with expertise in developing First Nations Business Charters and Limited Partnerships
Matt Sherry: Economic Development Manager Saskatoon Tribal Council
The Symposium was extremely well received by all who attended. There was much positive information on the creation and establishment of successful Economic Development Authorities by all of the invited guests who made presentations. At the end of the Symposium there was general consensus from Council to proceed with this initiative.
At the Friday August 8, 2014 Chief and Council meeting, there was a motion passed to “explore and establish a Muskoday Economic Development Authority under the corporate laws of Saskatchewan as a For Profit Corporation”
At the Monday August 25, 2014 Chief and Council meeting, there was a motion passed to “approve the proposal prepared by Lonechild and Associates to pursue sources of funding for a Muskoday Development Authority”
This proposal for funding will be submitted to AANDC on Thursday September 11, 2014. The proposal requests funding related to the start up costs of the Muskoday Economic Development Authority.
Further information will be forthcoming as to the approval of the proposal. Upon gaining approval of the funding proposal, there will be further community meetings arranged to keep the community better informed on the process.
I look forward to positive community meeting to move forward on this important initiative.
Economic Development Portfolio Councillor