First Nations entrepreneurs benefit from growth fund
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.
Winnipeg housing prices posted their biggest year-over-year quarterly increase in at least two years in the third quarter of 2017.
First Nations entrepreneurs Oliver Owen (from left), Angie Zachary and Robert Zacharias.