First Na­tions en­trepreneurs ben­e­fit from growth fund

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - MARTIN CASH martin.cash@freep­ress.mb.ca

FOR al­most 10 years, Man­i­toba First Na­tions en­trepreneurs with a vi­able busi­ness have been able to rely on sup­port from the First Peo­ples Eco­nomic Growth Fund (FPEGF).

And while of­fi­cials from the fund ac­knowl­edged at an event hosted by the Abo­rig­i­nal Cham­ber of Com­merce on Thurs­day that there are not nec­es­sar­ily a lot of home runs, the fact that the fund is still around af­ter lend­ing more than $30 mil­lion since it was formed in 2008 is rea­son enough to be en­cour­aged.

Angie Zachary, the founder of The BeYou-Tee Fac­tory, a pro­fes­sional makeup artist train­ing school, said she had to over­come a lot set­backs but made it clear that with­out the fi­nan­cial sup­port and as­sis­tance in pro­fes­sion­al­iz­ing her busi­ness she re­ceived from FPEGF, she might not have been able to pull it off.

Formed out of a part­ner­ship between the prov­ince and the As­sem­bly of Man­i­toba Chiefs (AMC) to try to stim­u­late the grow in the First Na­tion busi­ness com­mu­nity in Man­i­toba and con­trib­ute to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the prov­ince, FPEGF loans to 190 busi­nesses and com­mu­nity en­ter­prises have been re­spon­si­ble for the cre­ation of about 900 jobs.

Speak­ing on be­half of Grand Chief Arlen Du­mas, the AMC’s Den­nis White Bird said, “It was an­tic­i­pated that by stim­u­lat­ing the First Na­tion busi­ness com­mu­nity, much-needed jobs and wealth would be gen­er­ated and ul­ti­mately play an im­por­tant part in the long term ob­jec­tive of re­duc­ing the level of poverty among First Na­tion peo­ple and First Na­tion com­mu­ni­ties in Man­i­toba.”

In ad­di­tion to Zachary’s busi­ness, the event — which was at­tended by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Cameron Friesen — also heard from Oliver Owen from Lit­tle Grand Rapids, whose small air­line, Amik Avi­a­tion, has just grown to four planes; and Robert Zacharias of 7 Acre Wood An­i­mal Board­ing Ken­nel in the RM of Mor­ris, whose fam­ily is from Fisher River.

“I re­ally love fly­ing and I love mak­ing money,” Owen said. His air­line pro­vides sched­uled air ser­vice to First Na­tion com­mu­ni­ties on the east side of Lake Win­nipeg.

“Th­ese three en­trepreneurs are an ex­am­ple of the qual­ity of peo­ple that we are priv­i­leged to work with in the First Na­tion busi­ness com­mu­nity in Man­i­toba,” said Ian Cramer, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of FPEGF.

“To­gether with our First Na­tion clients we are mak­ing pos­i­tive changes for fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties lever­ag­ing over $100 mil­lion thus far in some 170 busi­nesses.”

The im­pact of ini­tia­tives like the FPEGF might have fur­ther light shed on them as the fed­eral govern­ment em­barks on a multi-pronged ef­fort to fig­ure out how In­dige­nous Peo­ples fare in the coun­try’s labour mar­ket.

Ex­perts say labour mar­ket in­for­ma­tion on In­dige­nous Peo­ples, both on and off re­serve, is woe­fully lack­ing.

Fed­eral and In­dige­nous agen­cies are try­ing to fill that knowl­edge gap through a se­ries of sur­veys and outreach ef­forts that will take years to com­plete and cost some $12 mil­lion.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Win­nipeg hous­ing prices posted their big­gest year-over-year quar­terly in­crease in at least two years in the third quar­ter of 2017.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

First Na­tions en­trepreneurs Oliver Owen (from left), Angie Zachary and Robert Zacharias.

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