Printer Friendly

Joint ventures open new markets, create employment.

Matawa Arctic Transportation is breaking new ground north of Geraldton.

Formed two years ago, the joint-venture business involving the Matawa First Nations and Arctic Northern Transportation is improving the economic conditions for five remote Native communities by maintaining their access to the outside world.

The business, which employs eight people, looks after winter road preparation and it hauls freight and heavy equipment to each of the five communities.

"The venture is going very well," comments David Paul Achneepinskum, executive director of the Matawa First Nations. "Using Arctic's business expertise and our monetary input, we've created something that works."

"We feel it has been successful for at least four of the communities involved. We've had to break new trail to one of the communities so we won't be hauling there until next season."

According to Achneepinskum, similar opportunities for joint business ventures exist throughout Northern Ontario. He says these ventures benefit both parties by creating employment for aboriginal people and by providing access to new markets for business.

However, Achneepinskum warns that some of the joint-venture opportunities will only be temporary. The long-term goal of most aboriginal communities is to acquire sole ownership of these ventures as part of an overall effort to become self-sufficient.

This shift to Native control is presently taking place at V. Kelner Airways in northwestern Ontario. The airline was formed when Kelner Airways joined the Wasaya Corporation two years ago to service four Native communities in the northwest.

Terry Deluce, the secretary treasurer of V. Kelner Airways, says the joint venture has worked well.

"It did everything we expected it to, and it helped us survive a bad time, while expanding the business and making it more profitable."

For Kelner, the joint venture has meant increased business and a 30-per-cent employment expansion to 60 people.

Wasaya is expected to increase its share in the business to 75 per cent within the next few months. Although the eventual goal is 100-per-cent Native ownership, Deluce says the company still profits because the increased business during the joint-venture stage.

"The potential is there for any business," continues Deluce. "They have a lot of needs in these northern communities - food, lumber contracting services and housing."

The two parties have also formed First Nations Petro Limited, a joint venture which sells fuel to the northern Native communities.

"We have a mediator between the two groups, and I think that is essential," says Deluce. "The mediator helps us to blend our ideas and communicate. We had to understand each other and, in the process, we have come to learn a lot from each other."

Dennis Cromarty, president and chief executive officer of the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN) Development Fund, believes more opportunities will surface once a draft land claims settlement is signed with the provincial and federal governments. Cromarty is a negotiator for NAN.

"Tourism is a given. These opportunities are immediate," he says. "There are also big opportunities in construction, with the many housing needs, sewer and water enhancements and school replacements."

The Nishnawbe-Aski Nation covers 400,000 square miles between the Manitoba border and Quebec, and it includes 46 northern communities representing about 30,000 Cree and Ojibway.

Lakehead University president Robert Rosehart, an Ontario government negotiator, believes a settlement of land claims and self-government issues will pave the way for business development.

"Once there is an agreement with clear rules and processes, it will facilitate development in all areas," explains Rosehart. "Companies just want to know the guidelines and then they can make their own decisions regarding business development."

Both Cromarty and NAN manager Mike Belliveau agree.

"Once the working relationship is clearly defined with an agreement, there will be opportunities at all levels, and joint ventures will evolve through trust," Belliveau says.

"We recognize that there is a lack of business expertise to take full advantage of the business opportunities, and joint ventures can work for both parties," adds Cromarty.

Cromarty believes that no one can operate in a vacuum, especially businesses in Northern Ontario.

"There is a long history of business between Natives and non-natives, and now there will be growth in this relationship because we have begun the process of building the bridge," he says.

However, businesses eager to take advantage of any new opportunities must be aware of the importance of trust to the Native people.

"Natives are cautious, and business people have to be aware of the importance of the environment and better understand the treaties and the Natives' relationship with the government," warns Cromarty.

"First Nations people are significantly different, with a different culture, language and perceptions, but we can learn to respect and work with each other's differences," adds Belliveau.

Rosehart believes the framework agreement on lands, resources and self-government could be reached by early June. However, Cromarty says that depends on whether or not the federal government comes through with the resources to complete the process.

"There have not been adequate funds from the federal government to do the job we would like to do, and that is to put our position together with legal and technical resources, communicate to the communities and actually do the negotiating," he says.

Cromarty says NAN is not financially equipped to negotiate, so it plans to lobby for the funds.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Rapino, Robin
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:May 1, 1992
Previous Article:Save Our North expands its horizons.
Next Article:Ontario stone offers untapped potential, says industry official.

Related Articles
Fur dressing plant promises opportunities.
When East meets West.
Principal Hopes to Establish Brand By Selling Pensions With ING in Japan.
Business park aimed at encouraging growth. (Aboriginal Business).
Joint venture plots wind park. (Sault Ste Marie).
Concerto Software signs agreement with New World Xianglong Communication Ltd. (Happenings).
Hampshire Self Storage reports plenty of activity.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters