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Sharing the prosperity

Sharing the prosperity

The Sechelt First Nation is open for business and actively seeking collaboration and partnership with the whole Sunshine Coast community and beyond, a gathering of native and non-native business and community leaders has been told.

That was the message repeatedly hammered home at the Oct. 18 Sechelt Nation Business Forum, sponsored by the Band and the First Nations Employment Society, and just the latest in a series of native-sponsored information and networking events aimed at developing entrepreneurial opportunities.

“We are sharing what we have,” Chief Calvin Craigan told the 125 people who attended the day-long forum at the Band Hall in Sechelt. “We’re going to share in the business. We are going to share in how we prosper. And Sechelt is going to become very prosperous in the next few years.”

But Craigan also said that while the local First Nation is keen on doing business, it’s going to do it with sensitivity to the environment and to native culture.

“This time around, we’re going to demonstrate to you how it should be done, in a sustainable fashion, respecting the earth, respecting the values of our people,” Craigan said.

Keynote speaker Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish First Nation echoed Craigan’s upbeat tone, but added that a cultural transition is still underway.

“As First Nations, we’ve seen a succession of ‘gold-rush’ mentalities within our territories over the past couple of hundred years,” Campbell said. “Others have become affluent at our expense. But this is changing as we mature and grow as a society.”

First Nations are moving to a situation where, “we’re not reliant on transfer dollars from taxpayers,” Campbell said. “We’re moving away from managing welfare. We want to manage wealth.”

Sechelt Lands and Economic Development Director Jessie August identified some types of businesses in which the Band is seeking strategic alliances and partnerships, including alternate energy, aquaculture, and the manufacture of skin-care products and traditional food products.

Property development is also on the table, August said, including the marina at the foot of Selma Park Road; the area known as Parcel K, located between St. Mary’s Hospital and Xenichen Ave.; and also on Phase 3 of the Tsain-ko shopping mall.

Among other oppo- rtunities is the need for a boot-camp for aspiring workers in the forestry industry, according to Vicki Macfarlane, Chief Operations Officer at Tsain-ko Development Corp.

“We’re looking for people in the forestry industry who would be interested in coming along side us and mentoring young individuals from entry level forestry positions on up,” Macfarlane said.

Candace Campo, co-owner of Talaysay Retreats and Seminars, also spoke and stressed the business potential of aboriginal cultural tourism.

“Right now, the business community and our local governments are really looking at how we can highlight the Sunshine Coast,” Campo said.

Entrepreneur Tim Lang, who is hoping to develop the proposed Seaglass condominium project in Gibsons, was one of those local business people who was attending a First Nations business forum for the first-time and said he was impressed.

“It’s been refreshing to see the extent to which there’s been an ongoing collaboration between regional business and First Nations. I wasn’t aware of that,” Lang said.

Rik Jespersen

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