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Indigenous economic independence and business partnerships need to be part of Reconciliation in Canada. The Office of the Treaty Commissioner is featuring First Nations’ Economic Development. The Office of the Treaty Commissioner talked with Albert Derocher, the general manager of FDB Holdings, the corporate arm of Flying Dust First Nation to learn more about their economic development work.

What is the mandate of Flying Dust First Nation when it comes to economic development?
To promote the economic self-sufficiency of the Flying Dust First Nation through sound investments, profitable and sustainable business operations, and effective management of business assets.

What is FDB Holdings involved in?
1.) FDB Property Management leases land and buildings to various businesses and groups. Our Company manages $40 million in assets and employs 4 full time members. We are presently working on 2 commercial development projects in Saskatoon and Meadow Lake.

2.) FDB Gravel Ltd., started in 2000 and provides aggregate services, construction and remediation services and employs 11 members (8 - Heavy Equipment Operators).

3.) FDB Fuels built a new $4.0 million Petro Canada Station in 2019 in front of the corporate centre on Flying Dust First Nation and employs 16 staff.

4.) The FDB Market Garden (organic), grows potatoes, carrots, onions, beets and beans, feeds the community, assists other First Nations and food banks with potatoes. (We employ 6 fulltime and 12 part time employees).

5.) Flying Energy is our oil and gas company in partnership with Crescent Point Energy.

6.) FD Power Corp. is in partnership with Genalta Power Corp. in Calgary. FDFN has been negotiating a 20 MW Flare Gas PPA with Sask Power for the past 7 years. This is a $45 million dollar project.

7.) FDB Holdings is invested with Gensource Potash Corp. on a 1,000,000 tonne per year potash mining facility to be built in southern Saskatchewan in 2021-2022.

8.) 105 Construction is a partnership with 306 Construction in Saskatoon. We provide construction, shut-down and maintenance services to Mining, Energy, Large Building and Transportation industries. 105 Construction employs 30 people full time.

9.) Snipe and Celly is a Sporting Goods and Merchandising Store situated on the Flying Dust FN in our arena. It employs 5 full time staff and provides training camps as well.

10.) FDB Security Services provides security services to FDFN, MLTCII and various businesses in Meadow Lake. FDB Security Services employs 12 trained members.

We’re doing some commercial development, including buying land south of Grasswoods and having partnerships with ICR in Saskatoon.

What does success look like?
It is being sustainable, being able to give back to the community. To be sustainable we have diversified our asset holdings, we’re in food sovereignty, and renewable energy. The sporting goods store at the community arena sustains the arena.
To keep being successful we need to be innovative.

How are profits given to the community?
The profits support community programs, services and projects. We keep some in the bank to reinvest in new business.

What does economic reconciliation look like to Flying Dust First Nation?
It’s creating partnerships – partnership with the city, the rural municipality, and the nine other First Nations through the Meadow Lake Tribal Council. We have partnerships with companies and other groups.
We work with everybody, and to me that is the most important thing. I always say it’s about trust and respect. We say, “this is who we are, and this is what we are trying to accomplish and if you are interested, let’s go.”

Are you seeing more partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous in business?
We have and I think there is so much more room for this area to grow. To utilize a company’s expertise and First Nations access to land creates opportunity for everyone to benefit.
Our leadership has been great. We bring our ideas to the table and see if they want to get involved in them so they have been very supportive, which has allowed our company to bring groups in who provide opportunity and benefits.

What are the lessons learned through FDB Holdings?
In the past 20 years Flying Dust has developed a good track record, we’ve worked hard to maintain our ability to get things done. Talk only gets you to the starting line, work gets you to the finish line.
You have to be patient. We’ve been at this for 35 years. These things take time to build, they take time to develop and they take time to sustain.
Utilize people who know what they are doing. Bring people to the table who understand what they are talking about. We have done that, we find people that have the knowledge, experience and connections.

Any other advice?
Start with a good plan and find some solid people to help manage that plan. Start slow, with one or two people and go from there. These things don’t happen overnight, you have to be patient. What we are developing for is our young people, so they have sustainable mature businesses, and determine how they need to keep going
Succession planning is important. There needs to be commitment, reliability and wanting to learn. We have some really smart people at the Edwards School of Business from FDFN, we hope they will come back to the community and take over.
You have to be looking at calculated risk and be on the lookout for opportunity.

*Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity

 

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