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Award captured for aboriginal partnerships.

Forestry sector lends management expertise to First Nations' community

A Northern Ontario partnership. between Waabigon Saaga'igan Anishinaabe First Nation, Bowater Forest Products Division (Thunder Bay Woodlands Operations) and Weyerhaeuser Co. Ltd. (Dryden) has been selected as the winner of the first annual Ontario Aboriginal Partnerships Aboriginal Award.

The award was announced in November by Ontario's Attorney General and minister responsible for Native Affairs, Jim Flaherty, and celebrates a successful Ontario-based business partnership between an aboriginal business, community or organization, and either a non-aboriginal business, community or organization.

The collaboration between Waabigon Saaga'igan Anishinaabe First Nation, Bowater and Weyerhaeuser has resulted in the formation and successful operation of the Wabigoon Anishnaabe Gitigewin Inc. Tree Nursery, a 94,000-square-foot facility located on-reserve near Dryden. The nursery is owned and operated by the Waabigon Saaga'igan Anishinaabe First Nation and currently employs eight fulltime staff and between 30 and 40 seasonal workers. It has the capacity to grow between eight and 10 million seedlings.

"This venture illustrates that partnerships between aboriginal communities and the corporate sector are an excellent way of providing business opportunities, expertise, financing, education and training g to the growing aboriginal workforce," Flaherty says. "In addition, corporate partnerships support aboriginal self-reliance, entrepreneurship and the creation of long-term employment, as well as provide, new business opportunities for the private sector."

In order to be eligible for the award, partnerships must be located in Ontario and be at least two years old. Additionally, award winners must have either: established a new aboriginal-owned business; increased revenue and growth in one or both entities as a result of the partnership; increased shareholder value; increased employment of aboriginal people; hired or promoted aboriginal people to serve in senior management positions; increased learning/training opportunities for aboriginal people; provided benefits to the aboriginal community; or established innovations in products, services or financial/corporate structures.

While neither Bowater nor Weyerhaeuser participates in the financial operations of the tree nursery, both companies have made a commitment to purchase a percentage of their annual seedlings from the facility.

"Avenor started (the partnership) before Weyerhaeuser bought the company (in 1998), providing technical expertise, advice and mentoring for the tree nursery," Weyerhaeuser spokesperson Jayne Murray says. "We also agreed to buy a certain amount of seedlings from the nursery so that they would have a steady customer base. We buy 3.1 million seedlings per year. This year was the first harvest." Weyerhaeuser purchases about 10 million seedlings annually, she says. Similarly, Bowater purchases between one and two million of its 14 million seedlings each year from the Dryden-area nursery, company spokesperson Sue Prodaniuk says.

"Bowater's involvement dates back quite a number of years to when the community first wanted to develop a business plan, a strategic plan, and Bowater helped them with that," Prodaniuk says. "We provided consultants, management expertise and that type of thing in order to develop the company."

Like Weyerhaeuser, Prodaniuk says Bowater continues to lend its management expertise providing technical, legal and business advice to the tree nursery. Bowater is "always looking" to forge new partnerships like this one, Prodaniuk says.
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Title Annotation:First Aboriginal Partnerships Aboriginal Award
Author:GOULIQUER, DIANNE
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Feb 1, 2001
Words:514
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