Goodstoney Meadows on Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation on Tuesday (April 9).Jungmin Ham/Rocky Mountain Outlook

Goodstoney First Nation and Bearspaw First Nation were among 10 First Nations to benefit from the province’s Aboriginal Business Investment Fund in 2023-24, with funding to support ongoing business ventures.

Funding issued to Goodstoney and Bearspaw is supporting $370,000 in renovations for the Goodstoney Meadows development and $170,140 for the purchase of new service vehicles to increase service offerings and business opportunities for Stoney Nakoda Telecom, respectively.

“We went and got some quotes on a couple vehicles from a dealership and the fit-out costs and put a business plan together on what we’re doing and passed it onto the government,” said Bearspaw First Nation CEO Rob Shotclose.

“Fortunately, we were successful in that application and we’re going to be purchasing two new trucks, fitted out with equipment, toppers and the Stoney Nakoda Telecom logo design, which we’ll use to help us maintain our network in Mînî Thnî and Eden Valley, and a new fibre network we’re working on up north in Big Horn.”

Stoney Nakoda Telecom has about 750 customers across Mînî Thnî and Eden Valley and is expected to add about another 50 to its client base once fibre is installed in Big Horn. That work is already underway through funding from the provincial and federal governments under the Universal Broadband Fund.

The funding is part of Alberta’s pledge to invest $390 million over four years to improve access to high-speed internet in rural, remote and Indigenous communities. Ottawa has pledged to match that investment, totalling $780 million. According to the Alberta government, reaching 100 per cent connectivity throughout the province will cost approximately $1 billion.

Shotclose said most in the remote northern community west of Nordegg did not previously have access to reliable high-speed internet.

“Before this project, internet there was basically non-existent,” he said. “But in this day and age, it’s a pretty critical service for everything from education to health and other social needs.”

At Goodstoney Meadows – a commercial development under construction that will include a gas bar, convenience store and other retail opportunities adjacent to the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino – money received from the Aboriginal Business Investment Fund is being used to purchase security and point of sale systems, refrigeration equipment and cabinetry.

The development broke ground in July 2022, but its opening has been delayed due to supply chain issues, said Goodstoney First Nation CEO Ray Greenwood, who added it’s likely to now open in phases starting with the gas station.

“We hope to at least get the gas station open as soon as we can,” he said. “But that money is going to help us out with getting the equipment we need for it and the convenience store.”

It was announced Wednesday (April 3) that the provincial government plans to increase the Aboriginal Business Investment Fund by $2.5 million for the second year in a row, doubling it from $5 million in its 2022 budget to $10 million in the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

According to the province, since the fund was launched 10 years ago, it has provided capital grants to more than 85 Indigenous businesses and helped create more than 800 permanent jobs for Indigenous people in Alberta.

The program provides capital grants of up to $750,000 to help Indigenous-owned businesses develop and grow.

“(…) Supporting Indigenous business development is a key part of Alberta’s commitment to economic reconciliation,” said Alberta Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson in a press release.

In 2022-23, the program funded 14 projects, including $500,000 to assist Mînî Thnî Casino Corporation – owned by Stoney Nakoda Nations – to support the development of an event centre at the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino.

By Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 11, 2024 at 17:05

This item reprinted with permission from   Rocky Mountain Outlook   Canmore, Alberta

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