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Our people and our companies are gaining valuable experience and building important business relationships. Now we are seeing the fruits of this hard work.

Press Releases

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  • March 6th, 2013
    Unama'ki Communities Sign Apprenticeship Agreement with Province READ ARTICLE
  • February 6th, 2013
    First Nations Train for Shipbuilding Opportunities READ ARTICLE
  • January 20th, 2013
    Nova Scotia Aboriginals Seek Work at Muskrat Falls Project READ ARTICLE
  • October 15th, 2012
    Fitzgerald Speaks at Ottawa Conference READ ARTICLE
  • May 30th, 2012
    UEBO Receives Community Partnership Award READ ARTICLE
  • March 5th, 2012
    Province Supports Success of Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office READ ARTICLE
  • January 10th, 2012
    First Nations Study Purchasing Power of Household Spending READ ARTICLE
  • December 9th, 2011
    Unama'ki Chiefs Meet With Cape Breton Partnership and ECBC READ ARTICLE
  • November 10th, 2011
    First Nations Partner with Coast Guard College READ ARTICLE
  • October 20th, 2011
    Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office Wins Special Award READ ARTICLE
  • September 15th, 2011
    Aboriginal Science Camp at Canadian Coast Guard College READ ARTICLE
  • August 5th, 2011
    Federal Minister Announces Funding READ ARTICLE
  • June 8th, 2011
    EMERA expands Partnership with UEBO READ ARTICLE
  • August 11th, 2011
    Rick Janega, president of Emera-Nfld, responsible for Maritime Link, meets with Eric Christmas of KMK and Dan Christmas, Co-chair of the steering committee for the Unama¹ki Economic Benefits Office READ ARTICLE
  • March 8th, 2011
    First Aboriginals Hired at NewPage! READ ARTICLE
  • February 15th, 2011
    Unama'ki ASEP Students Train on Drill Rig READ ARTICLE
  • January 6th, 2011
    Research Jobs Result from New Partnership between First Nations and CBU READ ARTICLE
  • November 30th, 2010
    Cape Breton First Nations Tour Churchill Falls READ ARTICLE
  • September 9th, 2010
    Wins Award at the Atlantic Canada Aboriginal Entrepreneur Awards in Fredericton READ ARTICLE
  • August 26th, 2010
    First Nations Purchasing Power READ ARTICLE
  • June 23rd, 2010
    Opening of New Offices READ ARTICLE
  • April 29th, 2010
    Tell Story of Success at National Aboriginal Conference in Toronto READ ARTICLE
  • April 2nd, 2010
    Cape Breton First Nation communities partner with Emera Utility Services to meet the need for Skilled Workers READ ARTICLE
  • March 25th, 2010
    “Aboriginal First” Procurement Policy READ ARTICLE
  • February 5th, 2010
    Unama’ki Leakage Study READ ARTICLE
  • February 1th, 2010
    Chapel Island Holds Business Workshop READ ARTICLE
  • November 24th, 2009
    $2.6 Million New Funding For Unama’ki Communities READ ARTICLE
  • November 24th, 2009
    Unama’ki Chamber of Commerce to have Official Launch READ ARTICLE
  • September 17th, 2009
    Chief Terry Paul of Membertou Inducted into Cape Breton Business
    Hall of Fame READ ARTICLE
  • September 14th, 2009
    Martin Visits Membertou to Speak about $52 Million CAPE Fund READ ARTICLE
  • August 21st, 2009
    Support: Critical to Success: Alyssia Jeddore works with her First Nation Community READ ARTICLE
  • August 5th, 2009
    Cape Breton First Nation Communities Launch Aggressive Environmental Training Program READ ARTICLE
  • July 14th, 2009
    First Nation Community & Business Leaders from NWT Visit
    Cape Breton READ ARTICLE
  • May 4th, 2009
    Cape Breton First Nation Communities Partner with NSCC READ ARTICLE
  • April 5th, 2009
    Cape Breton Business Leaders Visit BC Container Terminal READ ARTICLE
  • March 22nd, 2009
    First Atlantic Aboriginal Women In Business Conference READ ARTICLE
  • March 7th, 2009
    Membertou Company Wins $37 Million Tar Ponds Contract READ ARTICLE
  • July 28th, 2008
    Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup Underway with Local Companies READ ARTICLE
  • Cape Breton’s Five First Nation Communities Establish Unique Economic Partnership READ ARTICLE

Unama'ki Communities Sign Apprenticeship Agreement with Province

Unama’ki, NS, Mar. 6th, 2013

Unama'ki Communities Sign Apprenticeship Agreement with ProvinceThe five First Nation communities in Cape Breton (Unama'ki) are taking a collaborative approach to increase Aboriginal participation in the apprentice-able trades and occupations. This initiative will see these Cape Breton communities working together to ensure more local Mi'kmaq successfully complete the apprenticeship program.

"Embracing this co-operative approach will see more Mi'kmaq people working on major construction projects within First Nation communities," says Chief Terry Paul of Membertou. "But more importantly, this strategy will open doors for our people to build capacity to contribute productively to the growth of their communities."

Alex Paul, Director of training for the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office said "The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office will use its resources to help coordinate this apprenticeship initiative." He went on to say, " This strategy also compliments efforts by the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office to ensure meaningful Aboriginal participation in major projects in the region, such as shipbuilding, Muskrat Falls, Donkin Mine and Port Development."

"There is also significant opportunity and need in the Unama'ki communities," said Paul. "The Unama'ki communities build dozens of new homes each year as well as new schools, health centers, office buildings, and we want to promote an Aboriginal First policy when it comes to procurement and employment in the Unama'ki communities. To be successful in this initiative, we need more skilled Aboriginal workers and this apprenticeship agreement will help address that need," he said.

"Nova Scotians are facing unprecedented opportunities in this province with the federal shipbuilding contracts, Muskrat Falls and the Maritime Link, and more than a billion dollars in new investment in our offshore," said Premier Darrell Dexter, also Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. "These projects are going to need skilled workers, so it's important to help people get prepared now. I commend these First Nations communities for working together to ensure more aboriginal people complete the apprenticeship program so they're ready for the good jobs that will come with these major projects."  

"Apprenticeship is a system of training and certification in established trades," said Joe Rudderham, director of the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Training Division with the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education. "Skilled trades professionals are in demand. Already, in some regions, there is a shortage of skilled trades people," said Joe Rudderham. "Nova Scotia's apprenticeship system can help individuals get the training and experience they need to become a skilled trades professional (certified journeyperson) in an exciting career. Apprenticeship is an effective training model that combines on-the-job learning with the learning of theory," said Rudderham.

All five First Nation communities have now signed on to Nova Scotia's joint apprenticeship agreement and will work together to maximize the uptake of the apprenticeship training model. 

First Nations Train for Shipbuilding Opportunities

Unama’ki, NS, Feb. 6th, 2013

The federal government is contributing $6 million in funding for the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO) in Membertou, to train Aboriginals across Nova Scotia for opportunities resulting from the $25 billion Irving Shipbuilding contract.

"This is a unique integrated human resource development plan for Nova Scotia Aboriginals, providing training and work experience in the shipbuilding industry, the spin-off economy, and other growth sectors," said Dan Christmas, co-chair of the steering committee for the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office.

Ross Langley, Vice-chairman of Irving Shipbuilding, said, "We are very pleased with the planned undertaking of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office and this training program. We see this initiative as a very proactive step to prepare Nova Scotia Aboriginals for future employment opportunities within the broader marine industry".

Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office, said, "We continue building partnerships with industry, understanding industry's needs and work to fill these needs. Now one of those industry partners will be Irving Shipbuilding." UEBO will identify skills and training gaps and will develop and coordinate industry and trades specific training programs in partnership with industry and training institutions, including the Nova Scotia Community College.

Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office said, "We continue building partnerships with industry, understanding industry's needs and work to fill these needs. Now one of those industry partners will be Irving Shipbuilding." UEBO will identify skills and training gaps and will develop and coordinate industry and trades specific training programs in partnership with industry and training institutions, including the Nova Scotia Community College.

HRSDC is providing the funding over 27 months under the Government of Canada's Skills and Partnership Fund and is expected to result in some 400 jobs for Nova Scotia Aboriginals, with more than 50% of those jobs related to the shipbuilding industry and the spin off economy. The province of Nova Scotia, Department of Labour and Advanced Education, has also provided funding for this unique training initiative.

Fitzgerald said the benefits office has established a unique partnership with the Mi'kmaq Native Friendship Centre in Halifax and the Mi'kmaq Employment-Training Secretariat (METS) to deliver this training for all 13 First Nation communities in Nova Scotia. We call this new partnership the "Nova Scotia Aboriginal Employment Partnership". Fitzgerald said the office will also act as a point of first contact for Aboriginals across Atlantic Canada that are ready for employment in shipbuilding.

This province wide training initiative builds upon the experience of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office. "This organization has a proven track record in working with industry and creating jobs. This started with their success in getting Aboriginal participation in the $400 million Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project and now this new the Nova Scotia Aboriginal Employment Partnership, will work collaboratively to ensure a similar success with the $25 billion Irving Shipbuilding contract and other major economic opportunities," said Dan Christmas.

In 2007 the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton, Unama'ki in the Mi'kmaq language (pronounced Una Maugi), formed a unique economic partnership and established a collaborative approach to economic development and training that is becoming recognized across Canada. They recognized the importance of taking a business approach to pursuing economic opportunities and the importance of partnering with business and governments. This Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office is the result.

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office has established partnerships with several major businesses, including Emera Utility Services, Nova Scotia Power, the Canadian Coast Guard College and the Port Hawkesbury Paper Mill. "We are now exploring opportunities around Churchill Falls, shipbuilding, Donkin Mine and port development. Industry is starting to realize that engaging Aboriginals can be good for business and that is good for everyone," said Fitzgerald.

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Nova Scotia Aboriginals Seek Work at Muskrat Falls Project

Unama’ki, NS, Jan. 20th, 2013

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou, is partnering with a Labrador Aboriginal organization to help Nova Scotia Aboriginals get employment on the Muskrat Falls Hydro development project.

Keith Jacque, executive director of the Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership, said preliminary work is underway on access roads and site work for the camps. He estimates 200 people are working at the site, and about 30% are Aboriginal. "We are getting ready for the big push this spring, and we are glad to work with the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou so Aboriginals throughout the region have the opportunity to work on this huge project."

Owen Fitzgerald, executive director of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office, said, "Our office has been getting requests from individuals regarding the opportunities at Muskrat Falls. Now we have a partner and process in place to assist and direct them. The first step is to call our office and speak to one of our support team."

Nova Scotia Aboriginals should go to the Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership website, www.latp.ca, and fill in the survey which will add them to their database. "The website is for any individuals who want to create an online profile of themselves for the Muskrat Falls Project. This site has to be utilized by all subcontractors who are bidding on work affiliated with this project, and is being monitored by Nalcor to ensure the site is being utilized as per agreement," said Jacque. People should also go to the new Nalcor website, www.muskratfallsjobs.com.

Nalcor has said that Muskrat Falls is the best undeveloped hydroelectric source in North America. The Muskrat Falls project, a $7.4 billion project, includes the construction and operation of an 824 megawatt hydroelectric generating facility and more than 1,500km of associated transmission lines. A subsea cable with bring this power across to Cape Breton. An average of 1,500 jobs will be required each year during construction.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office takes a unique approach to economic development and training. The office is the result of a partnership between the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton, Unama’ki. The collaborative and business like approach with industry and government is key to its success. "We establish partnerships with industry, work hard to understand their needs and work to fill those needs," said Fitzgerald. "We get results, we help create jobs," said Fitzgerald, "and industry is recognizing this is good for everyone."

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Fitzgerald Speaks at Ottawa Conference

Ottawa, Ontario, Oct 15th, 2012

The 2012 Aboriginal Entrepreneurs Conference is being held in Ottawa this week. With more than 400 participants from across Canada, the conference will highlight the significant role Aboriginal people and businesses are playing in the economic development of Canada. One of the guest speakers is Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou.

The theme of this national conference is "Major Projects", including the $6,2 billion Lower Churchill Falls hydro project and the government of Canada's $35 billion shipbuilding project. Senior government officials will be participating in the conference, including the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Senior industry officials will include Mike McAloon, vice-president of Irving Shipbuilding.

Fitzgerald said discussions will focus on major economic opportunities, how to establish business partnerships and how Aboriginal communities and businesses can prepare for these opportunities. "Procurement policy and how to use it as a tool for economic development and capacity building, will also be part of the discussion," said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said the story he will tell is one of success and partnership and one of innovation in economic development. He said this conference is a great opportunity to tell our story, the Unama'ki story, but also a great opportunity to meet senior business leaders as well as senior government officials. "We want them to know that we can help them succeed," said Fitzgerald.

"Companies that build business partnerships with the Aboriginal community and position themselves as employers-of-choice for Aboriginal talent will have an advantage as Canada's Aboriginal labour market continues to grow six times faster than our non-Aboriginal market", says Kelly J. Lendsay, President of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council, host of the conference.

"Aboriginal entrepreneurs are key players in the formation of strong, self-sufficient communities and are poised to participate in some $500 billion in major projects across Canada, including mining developments out west and up north, energy projects in Alberta, Potash development in Saskatchewan, shipbuilding on the east and west coast and the Lower Churchill Falls Hydro development," said Lendsay.

"The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office works to understand industry needs and works to fill those needs. It's that simple," said Fitzgerald. "Many successful business have an aging workforce and need skilled workers and the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office is focuses on identifying these needs and filling those need."

Fitzgerald will be talking about the Aboriginal participation in the $400 million Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project, how the contracts were structured to ensure success and how it focused on building capacity. The success of their efforts at the Tar Ponds project provided an opportunity for the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office to broaden its horizons and explore other economic opportunities.

The office has established partnerships with several major businesses, including Emera, Nova Scotia Power and the Port Hawkesbury Paper Mill. "We are now exploring opportunities around Churchill Falls, shipbuilding, Donkin Mine and port development. Fitzgerald said he will be describing how his office engages their industry partners and how the office provides support to the local Aboriginals while in training and even once employed. To date, the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office has helped create more than 200 jobs for the Mi'kmaq of Cape Breton.

"Industry is starting to realize that engaging Aboriginals can be good for business and that is good for everyone," said Fitzgerald.

Shown in Photo: L-R: Kelley Lendsay, President of Aboriginal Human Resource Council, Mike McAloon, Vice President, Irving Shipbuilding, Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director, Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office, Sara Filbee, Assistant Deputy Minister, Aboriginal Affairs, Ottawa.

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UEBO Receives Community Partnership Award

Port Hawkesbury, NS, May 30th, 2012

The Strait Campus of the Nova Scotia Community college held its Student Success Awards ceremony Wednesday evening in Port Hawkesbury. One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the Community Partnership award to the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou. Owen Fitzgerald, the Executive Director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office accepted the award on behalf of the economic benefits office.

"Each year we recognize that student success relies on strong partnerships in our communities. Community and industry partners offer our students support through class visits, awards, financial support, and work experience. In appreciation of this support, we offer one organization an appreciation award in recognition of our gratitude," said Tom Gunn, principal of the Strait Campus. This year, several agencies, businesses, individuals and industries were nominated so it was a tough decision. "We are pleased to announce that this year's recipient of the Community Partner Appreciation Award is the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office," said Gunn.

Unama'ki is the Mi'kmaq word for Cape Breton Island. The five Cape Breton Mi'kmaq communities have formed a unique economic partnership and established a collaborative approach to economic development that is becoming recognized across Canada. They recognized the importance of solid training, taking a business approach to pursuing economic opportunities, and the importance of partnering with business and governments. The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office has worked closely with the NSCC Strait Area Campus in the past number of years to help many First Nations students acquire education, training and employment. The Strait Campus has more than 700 students in 33 programs. Shown in the photo is Owen Fitzgerald, left, receiving the award from Tom Gunn, principal of Strait Campus, NSCC.

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Province Supports Success of Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office

March 5th, 2012

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter was in Membertou Monday, Mar.5, to announce more than $640,000 over two years for the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office. The funding from the Department of Labour and Advanced Education will help Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office provide training for 400 and lead to employment for more than 200 Mi'kmaq from, the Unama'ki communities as well as Paq'tnkek and Pictou Landing.

"The province of Nova Scotia wants to support the success of the Benefits Office," said Dexter. "This is good for business, good for First Nations and good for all Cape Breton." Dexter also said, "This partnership supports training, one of the three pillars of the province's JobsHere plan to grow the economy."

"Significant, long-term projects like the shipbuilding contract, the Lower Churchill project, the Donkin mine and development anticipated in the Port of Sydney - these are all projects that will create good jobs across the province," said Premier Dexter. "The funding announced today is an example of how the province's workforce strategy uses innovative ways to help ensure all potential workers are equipped with the skills, training and learning opportunities they need to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow."

Chief Terry Paul, chair of the board for the Economic Benefits Office said, "The communities take great pride in this organization and are very much engaged in the operation of the Benefits Office, through the steering committee." The office takes a business approach and a collaborative approach to economic development and training.

Dan Christmas, co-chair of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office Steering Committee said, "Then there is the team that runs this ship, the Executive Director, Owen Fitzgerald and Alex Paul, the Director of Training. If you've seen these guys in action, they make quite a team. They have a determination and know business. They deliver results, creating jobs, with the help of a great staff at the Benefits Office, They are making a big difference in people's lives," said Christmas.

The Benefits Office translates good intentions into business reality. Their first achievement came in October 2008, when the Benefits office secured an agreement totalling over $19 million for the first Nova Scotia Aboriginal set-aside. This was for work on the Sydney Tar Ponds cleanup project. The transformation of the Tar Ponds is almost complete, but the Benefits Office saw the Tar Ponds just as a starting point. The success of the Unama'ki Economics Benefits Office continues: they've established key partnerships with other major industrial players in Cape Breton, including Emera, Nova Scotia Power and Bell Aliant. The Benefits Office works to understand industry needs and works to fill those needs. It's that simple. They have also established a partnership with the new Center for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment at CBU, what they call, an investment in the future.

Chief Terry Paul told a story of a recent visit to Ottawa with chief Leroy Denny of Eskasoni to meet senior government officials. Towards the end of the meeting Chief Denny stood up and pointed at a photo in the office's annual report, a photo of 8 community members that are now working for Emera.. He said, "They are like Astronauts in our community!"

Chief Denny said, "The entire community of Eskasoni is proud of these men and no one thought a large company like Emera would ever hire our people. These men are like hero's because they give our people hope."

Chief Paul then thanked Premier Dexter for recognizing these Astronauts and for supporting the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office, to make sure their success continues.

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First Nations Study Purchasing Power of Household Spending

January 10th, 2012

A new economic study has identified that the five First Nation Communities in Cape Breton (Unama'ki) spend a total of over $107 million. Dan Christmas, co-chair of the steering committee for the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO), said, "$107 million is enormous purchasing power and this economic study provides some strong economic data for our communities to act on and leverage for economic development and jobs."

In 2010, the UEBO contracted Saint Mary's University Business Development Centre (SMUBDC) to undertake a Unama'ki Economic Leakage Study. It identified more than $70 million in spending by the Unama'ki communities. This first study focused on Band spending, with estimates of household spending based upon Statistics Canada census data from 2006. One recommendation from that study was to complete more detailed research into household spending. This new study conducted by the SMUBDC did just that and found that, when you combine Band and household spending, the spending totals over $107 million a year. Of that total, household spending accounts for over $56 million and Band spending accounts for $51 million.

Of the 1,786 households in Unama'ki, 1,465 (82%) of households were visited and 698 households (39%) completed the surveys. Of the total homes, 992 homes are in Eskasoni, 280 in Membertou, 150 in Potlotek, 139 in Wagmatcook and 225 in We'koqma'q. Groceries accounted for 19% of household spending ($10 million), followed by Clothes at 9% ($5 million), Gas at 8%, Vehicle payments 8%, entertainment 7%, power at 4% and furniture 3%. Of the total household spending, 34%, or $14 million, is spent outside Cape Breton and 67% ($34 million) spent off Reserve.

"This study provides great detail of just what people are spending money on and that presents an opportunity for local Mi'kmaq to identify business opportunities. It also highlights how, with an Aboriginal First procurement policy, more economic benefit can stay in the communities," said Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the UEBO. As part of a partnership UEBO has with the new Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment at CBU, the study also collected data on energy usage in the five First Nation communities. This data will assist the Centre in a Unama'ki Energy Efficiency and Conservation Pilot project that it has undertaken.

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office is a cooperative endeavour of the five Cape Breton First Nations communities. It is engaged in a range of important initiatives in the areas of business development, labour force training and mobilization and opportunity identification. "Enhanced self-sufficiency can result from redirected purchasing," said Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director. "This can result in meaningful employment opportunities for First Nations people and this is one of the primary goals of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office."

The federal department of Aboriginal Affairs Northern Development and the provincial of Nova Scotia provided funding to undertake this study. Prior to release of the report the results were presented to the five Unama'ki chiefs at a special meeting in Membertou in December. The complete study can be viewed on the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office website, www.unamaki.ca

First Nations Study Purchasing Power of Household Spending

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Unama'ki Chiefs Meet With Cape Breton Partnership and ECBC

December 9th, 2011

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO) hosted a meeting of the five Unama'ki Chiefs on Dec.9 in Membertou. The chiefs received a briefing on a new economic strategy for Cape Breton that the Cape Breton Partnership is about to launch. Keith MacDonald, Executive Director of the Cape Breton Partnership, made the presentation. Chief Gerard Julian of Paq'tnkek was also in attendance.

John Lynn, CEO of Enterprise Cape Breton also attended the meeting to discuss the economy with the leaders of the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton. The chiefs discussed plans for an aggressive initiative to ensure local Mi'kmaq are part of some major projects that are about to roll out in our region, projects that the premier described as "Game Changers", including shipbuilding, Lower Churchill Falls power, Donkin mine and port development. "We need to use these as opportunities to build Aboriginal capacity and ensure they tap into the many job opportunities and business opportunities that will result," said Chief Terry Paul.

"Through the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office, the chiefs are looking at a major initiative to get more of our people off social assistance and into meaningful employment," said Chief Paul. "There are some major economic opportunities before us and we intend to work closely with all levels of government and more importantly, with industry, to understand their needs and fill those needs and make this a win-win for everyone."

Chief Paul went on to say, "This is an opportunity to build capacity in our communities and create jobs. We have gained considerable experience from our engagement in the Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project, and this experience and success puts us in a good position to capitalize on these new projects such as Shipbuilding. Many industries are faced with an aging workforce and need skilled workers. Our plan is to train our people to fill those needs. This is all about capacity building and doing it in partnership. It's that simple."

Shown in photo: Seated L-R: John Lynn, CEO of ECBC, Chief Terry Paul of Membertou, Chief Leroy Denny of Eskasoni, standing L-R: Chief Wilbert Marshall, Potlotek, Keith MacDonald, Executive Director, Cape Breton Partnership, Chief Norman Bernard, Waymatcook, Stanford Phillips, Councilor Waycobah, Chief Gerard Julian, Paq'tnkek and Jason Bernard, Councilor Waycobah.

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First Nations Partner with Coast Guard College

November 10th, 2011

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO) has formed a partnership with the Canadian Coast Guard College in Point Edward. Members of the Steering Committee for the UEBO met at the Coast Guard College this week. They went on a tour of the facility, including the new $7 million navigation simulator. "Wow, this is amazing and so realistic," said Dan Christmas, co-chair of the Steering Committee. "The simulator had us navigating rough seas as we entered Halifax Harbour, all very realistic," said Christmas.

As part of the partnership, the first local Aboriginals are expected to enter the Coast Guard College cadet program next year. The Coast Guard College has partnered with the UEBO in holding an Aboriginal Science Camp this past summer for grade 9 students from the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton. The College is also a partner with the UEBO and NSCC in delivering the Academic Career Connection program to help local Aboriginal students improve their science and math skills so they will qualify for the Coast Guard cadet program. "This is an effort to get more young Aboriginals involved in science and engineering," said Christmas. "This is an amazing facility and a great career opportunity. The Coast Guard College is becoming an important partner of the UEBO." Shown touring the navigation simulator is L-R: Sandra Gloade, First Nation Student Advisor, Marconi Campus, NSCC, Alyssia Jeddore, job coach with the UEBO, Dan Christmas, Cyrus Bernard, councillor from Waycobah and Myles Ross, Navigation Instructor with the Coast Guard College.

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Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office Wins Special Award

October 20th, 2011

A special award was presented to the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office at the Excellence in Business Awards held by the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, October 20 in Membertou. The award is called the Stewardship Award and is sponsored by the Sydney Sunshine Rotary Club. This award is presented to an organization to recognize their efforts and success in building sustainable communities. "Certainly the Economic Benefits Office has been very successful in establishing partnerships with industry and creating jobs for local Mi¹kmaw," said Jim Paris, President of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce. The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office is a unique economic partnership between the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton and the office focuses on economic development, training and support. The office takes a collaborative approach and a business like approach to economic development. Shown receiving the award are L-R: Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office, award presenter Bill Vokey, Manager TD Canada Trust, Sydney and Dan Christmas, co-chair of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office Steering Committee.

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Aboriginal Science Camp at Canadian Coast Guard College

September 15th, 2011

The Canadian Coast Guard College in Sydney has partnered with the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office in putting on a week-long science camp for local Aboriginal students. Last month 15 grade nine students form all five First Nation communities in Cape Breton attended the science camp. Alyssia Jeddore with the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office, worked with staff at the Canadian Coast Guard College to plan the camp. "It is important to get more youth, especially Aboriginal youth, interested in the sciences. This camp and the setting, certainly opened the eyes to these young people as to new career opportunities," said Jeddore. L-R: students, Jasmin Price from Wagmatcook, Muin Cremo from Wekoqmaq, Kelsy Boyce from Potlotek, Alyssia Jeddore from the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office and student Eric Johnson from Eskasoni.

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Federal Minister Announces Funding

August 5th, 2011

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO) will receive operational funding to continue its economic development work on behalf of the five First Nations communities on Cape Breton Island. Originally established in 2007 to oversee business opportunities for First Nations companies arising from the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds, the UEBO has broadened its horizons to find new opportunities for Aboriginal businesses in various sectors while providing young Aboriginals with training for skilled, well-paying jobs.

"The Government of Canada recognizes that economic development is key to improving the standard of living and quality of life for Aboriginal people," said the Honourable Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Transport) during a press conference in Membertou Aug.5.

ECBC is providing financial assistance of $438,000, and the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens Project, through Public Works and Government Services Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, is providing $755,000. This funding from the project is in addition to the approximately $337,000 provided to the UEBO in June 2007.

L-R; Owen Fitzgerald, executive director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office, Minister Steven Fletcher, Dan Christmas, co-chair of the UEBO Steering Committee and Alex Paul, Director, UEBO and in charge of the Unama'ki ASEP training program.

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EMERA expands Partnership with UEBO

June 8th, 2011

With an aging population, Industry is facing a shortage of skilled workers and they are beginning to look to local Mi'kmaq as a possible source of skilled workers.

EMERA Utility Services (EUS) partnered with the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office in 2010 and eight local Aboriginals were trained. "EMERA intended to hire four, but were so pleased, they hired all eight," said Alex Paul, Director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO). This year Nova Scotia Power decided to also be a partner and a new training program is about to get started.

A group of 16 Aboriginals from Cape Breton traveled to Truro, Nova Scotia, on Friday as part of a "Test Drive" with EMERA Utility Services and Nova Scotia Power. Students visited Emera facilities in Truro to experience what it is like to climb the poles and work on the power trucks. Levi Poulette (left) of Eskasoni is one of the students and is show with John Jollimore from Emera Utility Services who is showing him how to operate a drilling machine.

Alex Paul described the unique approach of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office and its ASEP training program. "We first seek out new economic opportunities, establish a relationship with the industry, seeking to understand their needs and then training local Aboriginals to meet those needs. We engage our industry partners throughout the whole process, from promotion to recruitment to selection of students and in developing and delivering the training." Paul went on to say, "The Economic Benefits Office has trained staff to provide ongoing support during training and even once individuals get hired."

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office is a unique economic partnership between the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton and the office focuses on economic development, training and support. "Our efforts are very much a collaborative approach and a business like approach and they're working," said Paul.

Paul said this process has proved very successful at the $400 million Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project and now we are pursuing other economic opportunities and partnerships such as Emera and Nova Scotia Power. We also have a partnership with the NewPage paper mill in Port Hawkesbury and are exploring opportunities with the $6.2 billion Lower Churchill Falls hydro project and with Irving Shipbuilding and the $35 billion Canadian Shipbuilding contract. Paul also said they have laid the groundwork to be part of the development of the Port of Sydney.

Paul said, "Industry is starting to realize that engaging Aboriginals can be good for business and this is good for everyone."

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Meeting with President Emera-Newfoundland

June 7th, 2011

Rick Janega, president of Emera-Nfld, responsible for Maritime Link, meets with Eric Christmas of KMK and Dan Christmas, Co-chair of the steering committee for the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office, June 7, 2011. They met in Membertou to discussed plans for the Lower Churchill Falls development and link to Maritimes.

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First Aboriginals Hired at NewPage!

March 8th, 2011

The NewPage paper mill in Port Hawkesbury has hired the first Aboriginals to work in their plant. At a national meeting of the Forest Products Sector Council in Ottawa this week, it was announced that a partnership between the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office and NewPage is beginning to bear fruit. Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office said, "This is an enormous milestone, a huge break through, especially when you consider that NewPage has 600 employees, and until last week, no Aboriginals working in their plant."

Fitzgerald is in Ottawa with Peter Waugh, board member of the Forestry Products Sector Council and Manager of Human Resources with NewPage Corporation. "We were able to share this great news with a very special national audience here in Ottawa," said Fitzgerald. As a result of our partnership and a unique recruitment and training process, New Page has hired the first Aboriginals to work in their paper mill. We now have four jobs for local Aboriginal at NewPage.

The focus of the Ottawa meeting is to explore ways of increasing participation of Aboriginals in the forest sector. "What great news to present at this meeting," said Fitzgerald. "We had a chance to outline the details of how we partner with industry and how we engage industry from start to finish, from recruitment to employment. We have significant results from our Unama'ki training to employment model, and we were thrilled to share our experience with people from across Canada."

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office is a unique and very successful First Nation model for economic development, one that is being recognized across Canada. This Unama'ki model involves taking a business approach to Economic Development. It also involves a collaborative approach to economic development, both by the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton, as well as partnerships with Industry, partnerships that are a win-win for both industry and for the communities. "NewPage is now part of this story of success," said Fitzgerald.

We first met with NewPage officials about two years ago. Over 600 people work at NewPage paper mill, and not one Aboriginal works there, at least not until last week. NewPage hired two local Aboriginals last week and plans to make job offers to two more in the near future. This is a huge milestone and hopefully just the beginning.

Fitzgerald described just how they got to this point. "We knew we had to be sensitive of the needs of NewPage and the challenges NewPage faces, such as existing Union agreements. Once NewPage committed to hiring Aboriginals, we worked with NewPage to do an inventory of each of their departments so we could understand who worked where, what skills and education these workers needed and where they expected job opening in the future. The fact is, many industries, like NewPage, have an aging workforce and are facing a shortage of skilled workers and see the Aboriginal communities as a source of new workers."

Fitzgerald said they suggested to NewPage that they first had to recognize that whatever they have been doing in an effort to hire Aboriginals just wasn't working and they had to try something different. Once an industry partner comes to this realization, we offer a solution, a solution that engages the industry, NewPage in this case, from start to finish, said Fitzgerald. We have a very positive track record with this employment model. In less than three years our office has helped create more than 100 full time for local Aboriginals.

"Our office usually recruit twice as many people as there are jobs, to ensure enough successfully complete the training and so our industry partner has a choice of who they hire and get good employees. Part of our approach is to get industry to make a paradigm shift, and move away from recognizing obstacles and focus on how to overcome obstacles," said Fitzgerals.

Once we get an industry partner to this point, we engage them in the whole process, from recruitment to selection to the designing of the training, evaluation, job interviews and our office provides ongoing support during training and continuing after they are hired. We engaged NewPage and the Nova Scotia Community College, Strait Campus, in designing a training plan that would help get us to success.

A critical part of this model is the fact that our office has the capacity to provide professional, ongoing support, when the person is in training, and even after they get hired. We have trained staff, staff that also speak the Mi'kmaq language, and live in the communities with these students. This is a critical element of why our model works. Aboriginals need to believe this job opportunity was serious and that they had someone on their side to support them.

I hope this employment model can help others. This is the second conference I have spoken to here in Ottawa this week, both speaking about building bridges. This is a win-win for everyone.

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Unama'ki ASEP Students Train on Drill Rig

February 15th, 2011

Unama'ki ASEP students are training to fill industry needs and this week that includes training on a drill rig. "The "Construction Technical Support Program" is a unique training program that will put aboriginals into the construction industry in positions that will lead to meaningful careers and on site leadership roles", said Alex Paul, Director of the Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership (ASEP Training Program) with the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office.

As part of the training, on Tuesday, Feb.15, a track mounted drill rig was in Membertou and ASEP students learned how the drill rig operates. This drill rig is typically used to perform geotechnical and environmental intrusive investigations, to assess soil, groundwater and bedrock conditions and also to collect samples.

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office began meeting with the construction industry in 2009, and industry identified a need for an accelerated Civil Technician Program because the civil tech program was no longer offered in Cape Breton and the competition for graduates of the NSCC core program offered on the mainland was too intense and often resulted in limited success for recruitment efforts. The result was this Construction Technical Support Program which was created by the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office ASEP training program in partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) and its industry partners.

This "Construction Technical Support" program has 15 industry partners including Stantec, ADI, CBCL. In June 2010, 15 students started this customized 10 month training program at the Marconi Campus, of the Nova Scotia Community College. The final stage of the training included students working once a week in the new Stantec Labs located in the new Membertou Business Centre on Churchill Drive. Students will soon begin a 10 week work placement as part of the program. Participants are being trained in all aspects of the civil construction industry such as blue print usage, quality control, surveying, construction supervision, project management, materials recognition and usage.

When working with the drill rig on Tuesday, students were shown how to properly log a borehole, how to properly collect and identify soil and bedrock samples and how a groundwater monitor well is installed. Also they will be instructed on how to collect data from the monitor well pertaining to existing groundwater conditions (ie water level below ground, water pH, turbidity concentrations, flow rates etc.) as well as how to properly collect a groundwater sample and submit to an chemistry laboratory for further more accurate testing and analysis. Students were also be shown how to select soil samples to be submitted to either a geotechnical or chemistry laboratory for further analysis.

"Our success is largely because of our Industry partners," said Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office. "We focus on creating partnerships with industry, identifying their needs and training local Aboriginals to fill those needs. It's that simple!" The Economic Benefits Office now has partnerships with EMERA, NewPage, the Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment at Cape Breton University and with the Sydney Tar Pond Agency. "We are adding to our list of business partners with this program that brings several engineering firms to the table and addresses their needs," said Fitzgerald.

Representatives from Maxaam Analytical Laboratory were also on site Feb.15 to show students how to do chemical analysis of various media and proper sample submission techniques.

During the past two years the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office has rolled out a very successful partnership with the Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project, resulting is dozens of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in contracts for local Aboriginals. "This success has resulted in local Aboriginal businesses and workers gaining experience and expertise and a greater capacity to take on other economic opportunities such as this one," said Fitzgerald.

"The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office's efforts in economic development and training have seen significant results, helping create over 100 full time jobs, tens of million of dollars in construction contracts and several unique partnerships with big industry", said Fitzgerald.

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Research Jobs Result from New Partnership between First Nations and CBU

January 6th, 2011

A new partnership between First Nations and Cape Breton University (CBU) is already showing results. Today CBU posted two job opportunities for local Aboriginal's to become part of the research team at the new Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment at CBU.

"Two of the biggest challenges of our generation are successfully managing industrial pollution and finding sustainable sources of clean energy, and this presents an opportunity, said Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office. "The vision of Cape Breton University is to create a cutting-edge centre that will attract the finest researchers and experts from around the world to Sydney, Nova Scotia."

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO) continues to explore new economic opportunities for the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton (Unama'ki). As part of that effort, the Economic Benefits Office has now established a formal partnership with the new Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment (CSEE) at Cape Breton University.

Ross McCurdy, COO of the new Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment said, "This Centre will now include the Mi'kmaq of Unama'ki as part of their research and development effort." The new members of the research team will work out of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Offices in the Unama'ki communities as well as out of the new $20 million research centre now under construction at the CBU campus.

This partnership addresses another priority of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office Steering Committee: to engage more young Aboriginals in the field of science and engineering. As well as creating these two research positions, the Centre will engage existing and future Aboriginal students at Cape Breton University in various projects and research.

Recently representatives of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office toured the Lower Churchill Falls, site of the planned $6.2 million hydro development. Much of this renewable energy will come to Cape Breton by subsea cable. The Economic Benefits Office, with the new Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment will explore the economic opportunity this development might create for Cape Breton. This partnership with CBU will put us in a much stronger position to identify and commercialize opportunities.

The UEBO is interested in identifying opportunities for, and within, the Unama'ki communities, especially related to renewable energy including wind and bioenergy. Through direct participation of local Mi'kmaq in the R&D efforts at the Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment, Unama'ki communities will develop valuable expertise and build human resource capacity. "Controlling energy costs and protecting the environment are important to everyone, including the First Nation communities in Cape Breton. This partnership and the research and development that will result, will help us build better and more sustainable communities and at the same time build expertise and create new economic opportunities and jobs that will benefit the Unama'ki communities and all Nova Scotia", said Dan Christmas.

The five First Nation communities in Cape Breton established the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office in 2007 to collectively pursue economic development. "The office has been recognized nationally and this is because of our collaborative, business like approach to economic development," said Dan Christmas, co-chair of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee. "The Economic Benefits Office has seen significant results, helping create over 100 full time jobs, tens of million of dollars in construction contracts and several unique partnerships with big industry", said Owen Fitzgerald.

For full details on the job opportunities please see www.cbu.ca/employment

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Cape Breton First Nations Tour Churchill Falls

November 30th, 2010

Labrador, Nov26, 2010… Representatives of Unama'ki (Cape Breton) First Nations are visiting Labrador this week. Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director and Alex Paul, Director, with the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office in Cape Breton, are in Labrador exploring economic opportunities that the recently announced Lower Churchill Falls development might present for Unama'ki and for all Cape Breton. Fitzgerald and Paul took a helicopter tour of Muskrat Falls, the site of the proposed hydro development on the great Churchill River.

On Nov.18, Newfoundland-Labrador and Nova Scotia Premiers along with the energy company EMERA, announced a partnership to proceed with the $6.2 billion Lower Churchill Falls hydro development and to transmit power by subsea cable to Cape Breton. Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said, "This could fundamentally change the economics of our region."

"We hope to position Cape Breton First Nations to play a significant role in this this project, especially related to the new transmission route to Cape Breton," said Alex Paul.

Fitzgerald said this is a fact-finding mission. "We want to understand the scale of this project and the economic impact it may have on Cape Breton and then we need to determine what we can do to maximize the economic opportunity for Unama'ki and for Cape Breton," said Fitzgerald.

While in Labrador, Fitzgerald and Paul meet with leaders of local Aboriginal Development and Training organizations. "They heard about our success in economic development and especially our success at the Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project and they invited us to visit," said Paul.

Aboriginals in Labrador and Cape Breton are considering opportunities to work together to lever opportunities. Fitzgerald contents that the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office existing relationship with EMERA and Cape Breton University's new Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment will positively influence its working relationship with Labrador Aboriginals.

"We shared lessons learned from the significant Aboriginal participation in the Sydney Tar Ponds Clean Up and hopefully our experience might help Labrador Aboriginals as they seek to play a part in a $300 million Department of National Defence environmental remediation project which is about to get underway in Labrador," said Fitzgerald.

"I think there is much we can learn from each other, and by working together, Aboriginals in Labrador and in Cape Breton will benefit more from these environmental remediation and energy projects," said Fitzgerald.

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Wins Award at the Atlantic Canada Aboriginal Entrepreneur Awards in Fredericton

September 9th, 2010

Fredericton, NS, Sept.9, 2010...The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou has been recognized for its successful efforts in economic development. The Economic Benefits Office won an award at the Atlantic Canada Aboriginal Entrepreneur Awards Show held at St. Mary’s First Nation, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, yesterday. More than 300 attended the awards ceremony hosted by Ulnooweg Development Group. “The office was honoured because of its significant success in improving the economy in Unama’ki, for its innovative and collaborative approach to economic development, but most importantly, its success in forging partnerships with industry, resulting in jobs and contacts,” said Chris Googoo, general manager of Ulnooweg Development Group.

Dan Christmas, co-chair of the Economic Benefits Steering Committee, and Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Economic Benefits Office, were in Fredericton to receive the award. “The Benefits Office is focused on business development, training under the Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership and identifying new economic opportunities,” said Dan Christmas.

“What a thrill to be honored for our efforts,” said Fitzgerald following the awards ceremony. “This all started with our efforts to ensure meaningful participation by local Aboriginals in the $400 million Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project, but it has turned into much more,” said Fitzgerald. “We have a great staff that makes a strong team and that is a big reason for our success. We also have a very engaged steering committee and that is also a big reason for our success and they are as proud as I am of all we have accomplished,” said Fitzgerald.

The Award for Start Up Business of the Year, went to Blair Bernard and his company, Mikjikj Enterprises (“mik-jik, meaning Turtle). Bernard is from Eskasoni and his business is working on a multi-million dollar contract at the Tar Ponds Cleanup Project.

Basket-maker Caroline Marshall of Membertou, wife of late Grand Chief Donald Marshall and mother of the late Donald Marshall Junior, was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

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First Nations Purchasing Power

August 26th, 2010

Unama’ki, NS, Aug. 26, 2010 - A major economic study establishes that upward of $72 million is the combined purchasing power of the five First Nations communities in Cape Breton. Commissioned by the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office, the study makes several recommendations on how best to harness First Nations purchasing power to further economic self-sufficiency.

Completed by Saint Mary’s University Business Development Centre, the research shows that almost $10 million a year is spent by the Unama’ki communities on construction services, $9 million on food, $5 million on financial services, $4.7 million on fuel, $2.4 million on construction materials, $1.9 million on insurance and $ .8 million on office supplies. Households spend approximately $1 million annually on clothing, $ .9 million on health care and $ .8 million on furniture.

Undertaken in late spring and early summer 2010, the study emphasizes that less than 12% of suppliers of goods and services to the Unama’ki communities are First Nation owned businesses. About 72% of total dollars spent by First Nation communities are staying in Cape Breton, but only 21.6% of the total are staying with First Nation businesses.

Among the recommendations is that a more extensive study be completed involving individual household interviews to identify, to a higher degree of accuracy, how and where household dollars are being spent. This will assist in further determining potential business opportunities, training requirements and business development strategies. Further the study suggests that Unama’ki communities pursue partnerships with certain suppliers and explore new business ventures. It suggested the five communities work toward more favourable purchasing agreements. Potential new business opportunities are identified in construction, food and grocery and financial services.

“The research is both timely and important,” said Dan Christmas, co-chair of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee. “Properly harnessed the purchasing power of the five communities can lever important economic and social improvements. We’re making encouraging headway in strengthening the First Nations economy but there are significant issues outstanding that this research will help in addressing.”

First Nation communities in Nova Scotia have an unemployment rate of 24.6%, and in Unama’ki it is 27% according to Stats Canada 2006 census. These rates are much higher than the 8.8 percent for Nova Scotia and the 15.5 percent in Cape Breton. Nova Scotia’s population is aging, which presents a challenge. First Nation communities in Cape Breton represent a much younger demographic and given the appropriate training and opportunities, this segment of the population can rise to fill the encroaching employment gap.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is a cooperative endeavour of the five Cape Breton First Nations communities. It is engaged in a range of important initiatives in the areas of business development, labour force training and mobilization and opportunity identification.

“Enhanced self-sufficiency can result from redirected purchasing,” said Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director. “This can result in meaningful employment opportunities for First Nations people and this is one of the primary goals of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office.” Click here (PDF) the view the complete study.

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Opening of New Offices

June 23rd, 2010

Membertou, NS - June 23 was more than just a grand opening of the Membertou Business Centre and the new access road. It was also the official opening of the new offices for the Membertou Entrepreneur Centre and the new offices of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office, now located in the New Membertou Business Centre.

Premier Darrell Dexter and Sarah Filbee, Assistant Deputy Minister, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, joined Chief Terry Paul for the opening of the offices. They joined Eileen Paul, manager of the Membertou Entrepreneur Centre and Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office.

“Membertou has pursued an aggressive strategy towards economic sustainability and we identified a growing need in our community for entrepreneur training and business support. The Entrepreneur Centre addresses this growing need by members interested in starting their own business,” said Eileen Paul.

Fitzgerald said he was thrilled to be moving into the new offices. “With the success of our office and the new opportunities the Unama’ki communities are now pursuing, we were in desperate need of new and larger office space. We currently have six staff and will soon be hiring two more. These are exciting times in Membertou,” said Fitzgerald. “The economic growth in Membertou is great for the economy of our whole Cape Breton Regional Municipality.”

The immediate opportunity that led to the establishment of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office was the $400 Million Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup Project. The successful participation of local Aboriginals at the Tar Ponds Cleanup Project has allowed the Unama’ki communities to build capacity and its businesses to gain valuable experience. It has also allowed the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office to now broaden its horizons and pursue new economic opportunities.

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Tell Story of Success at National Aboriginal Conference in Toronto

April 29th, 2010

Toronto, Ont. - Representatives of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou, NS, presented at “Inclusion 10,” a National Aboriginal Human Resource Council conference being held in Toronto this week. Owen Fitzgerald, the Executive Director of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office, spoke about the office’s successful approach to economic development. “We take a business like approach and a collaborative approach to economic development,” said Fitzgerald, “and it works.” We establish relationships with industry and government, listen to their needs and work to address those needs, it is as simple as that,” said Fitzgerald.

Alex Paul, the Director at the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office also attended the conference. He said, “We wanted to share our success in creating jobs and growing businesses and learn from the success of other First Nation communities across Canada.”

During the conference, Owen Fitzgerald and Alex Paul got to meet with the Right Honourable Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada. Martin was the keynote speaker at the conference.

In his speech, Martin said, “What have we done as a country, when the leading cause of death among Aboriginal youth is suicide?” He went on to say, “The fundamental problem was that we took away your identity, saying all that you believed, was wrong, and all that was foreign was right.” Martin also spoke about the impact of residential schools and how they affected generations of children and families, not just those that attended the residential schools. “When I started university in 1953, if an Aboriginal went to university, they lost their Aboriginal status,” said Martin. “The answer lies with better education,” said Martin. He said the Martin programs seek to improve the Aboriginal High School dropout rate. Martin said that Canadian underfunds on-reserve schools by up to 50% when compared to non-Aboriginal schools. “This is not a solution to building a stronger economy,” said Martin. “The Martin educational initiatives were established so Canadian Aboriginals can fully participate in the Canadian economy.”

Martin received a standing ovation from the crowd of some 400 people that recognized the importance of the various educational and Aboriginal investment initiatives established by Martin and his son David.

Over 100 Aboriginal youth from across Canada also attended this national conference that has the theme, “Voices of Change”. Kelly Lendsay, President and CEO of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council, described Martin as an “Agent of Change.” National Chief, Shawn Atleo also spoke at the conference and said “It is our time to take our rightful place in society. They now see us. We no longer need to fight with our fists, but now with education.”

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Cape Breton First Nation communities partner with Emera Utility Services to meet the need for Skilled Workers

April 2nd, 2010

Membertou, NS - Local First Nation communities are partnering with EMERA Utility Services (EUS) to help meet the need for skilled workers. Emera Utility Services, a subsidiary of Emera Inc., is the largest utility services contractor in Atlantic Canada. Emera established this partnership with the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office, an economic development organization established by the five First Nation Communities in Cape Breton.

The Economic Benefits Office will recruit and train local Aboriginals and Emera has committed to hiring at least five of those that successfully complete the training,” said Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office. “This is the start of another very important partnership that has long-term implications. Working with industry, understanding their needs and working to address these needs, is the key to our success,” said Fitzgerald.

“This collaborative and business like approach to economic development has resulted in dozens of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in contracts for local Mi’kmaq. Our office is focused on identifying new economic opportunities, training local Aboriginals and through partnerships with industry, creating jobs for local Mi’kmaq. In this case, Emera actually heard about our success and approach us, asking if they could also establish a partnership that would be a win-win for both,” said Fitzgerald.

“After several months of planning, EMERA Utility Services and the Economic Benefits Office, with the help of the Nova Scotia Community College, Marconi Campus, have established a unique training plan to ensure EMERA Utility Services gets skilled workers and local Aboriginals get jobs”, said Alex Paul, Director with the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office. This training is under the Unama’ki Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership Program (ASEP) that is managed by the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou.

This past week, a group of 10 Aboriginals from Cape Breton visited an Emera Utility Services training facility in Truro, NS, to learn more about the opportunity. “The visit provided the group with an opportunity to experience first-hand the skills that they would learn in the program,” said Mr. Paul. “Attendees climbed poles, had a turn in a bucket truck, and learned about EUS’ safety program.”

The next step is an extensive training program put on by the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou. Lynn Meloney, training administrator with Emera Utility Services, explains: “EUS will provide three aboriginal mentors to those in the program, most of the equipment and tools required for the work, and a commitment of a minimum of five jobs for those that successfully complete the 16 weeks of training. Training will include classroom lectures, group projects and fieldwork, which will begin in early April. Emera Utility Services training will provide aboriginal participants with the skills necessary to install and repair data lines and cell towers for EMERA Utility Services.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office worked with the Native employment Officers (NEO’s) to hold recruitment and information sessions in the five Unama’ki communities. The top 20 applicants were selected to participate in a career fair with Emera Utility Services and Emera selected the top 10 candidates to take the training program. The Economic Benefits Office has contracted the Nova Scotia Community College, Strait Campus, to deliver the training and individuals that successfully complete the training will get six electrical credits through the community college.

During the past two years the Economic Benefits Office has rolled out a very successful partnership with the Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project, resulting is dozens of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in contracts for local Aboriginals. “This success has resulted in local Aboriginal businesses and workers gaining experience and expertise and a greater capacity to take on other economic opportunities such as this one with EMERA,” said Fitzgerald.

The importance of the Unama’ki First Nations labour force to the continued development of the Cape Breton economy is without question. The five First Nation communities in Cape Breton, Unama’ki in the Mi’kmaq language, have formed a unique economic partnership to facilitate new investment, job creation, capacity building, skills transfer and training, planning and entrepreneurship. The model is demonstratively successful and gaining recognition across Canada. It is solidly grounded in business principles and buttressed by a diverse network of private and public sector collaborators, again demonstrated here with this partnership with Emera.

Despite its short history, the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO), established in 2007 in Membertou, has made noteworthy headway. The office has negotiated more than $19 million in contracts with the Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project. Thus far the Economic Benefits Office has generated 44 full time jobs for First Nations. This includes work at the Tar Ponds and work generated outside the Tar Ponds.

The Tar Ponds contracts have given First Nations companies valuable experience and helped them expand their capacity so they can pursue other work on the cleanup as well as work outside the Tar Ponds. As a result, First Nations companies are now prominent in contracts valued at more than $71 million.

The success at the Tar Ponds has given the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office the confidence and experience to broaden its horizons and pursue new economic opportunities, especially those associated with port development and energy and environmental sustainability. “Another one of those economic opportunities is with our new partners, Emera Utility Services,” said Fitzgerald.

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“Aboriginal First” Procurement Policy

March 25th, 2010

Membertou, NS, A new “Aboriginal First” Procurement Policy has been introduced by the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office, an economic development organization established by the five First Nation Communities in Cape Breton.

“Price, quality and service are still critical factors in determining who is awarded contract. The mandate of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is to “Maximize Local Aboriginal Economic Benefits,” and this too is now a critical factor in determining who will win any contracts with our office,” said Dan Christmas, Chair of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee.

“The Unama’ki communities purchase millions of dollars in goods and services from Cape Breton businesses each year. This purchasing power can pay dividends for local First Nation communities. Therefore the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is adopting a new procurement policy to maximize local aboriginal economic benefits. We hope all five Unama’ki communities will adopt a similar policy,” said Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office. “This is a refocusing of the Cape Breton First campaign of the past. We’re encouraging Aboriginal communities to Buy Aboriginal First”, said Fitzgerald.

“This procurement policy compliments a major study the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is conducting, the ‘Unama’ki Economic Leakage Study.’ This study is looking at economic opportunities in our own backyard, in the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton,” said Christmas. “This study may identify opportunities for new Aboriginal businesses. Until we have more Aboriginal Businesses, we want to use our purchasing power to have local businesses understand that we will look more favourably upon their bids if they employ aboriginals or if they support Aboriginal communities in any way,” said Christmas.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office has had great success in its brief three-year history. This success will soon see the office moving into larger space in the new Membertou Business Centre now under construction. This move will require the Economic Benefits Office to purchase new furniture, so the office has decided to use this purchase as the first step in implementing their new Aboriginal First procurement policy. The Economic Benefits Office recently placed ads in the Cape Breton Post seeking bids to provide this office furniture. (ad attached)

“With all bids we want businesses to tell us if they are an Aboriginal business, if they employ Aboriginals or if they support Aboriginal communities in any way. “When we purchase goods or services, we want to ensure we maximize economic benefits for our communities,” said Christmas.

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Unama’ki Leakage Study

February 5th, 2010

Membertou, NS - The five First Nation communities in Cape Breton are about to undertake a major study to identify economic opportunities in their own backyard. The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office today issued a request for proposals to undertake a “Leakage Study” for the local Aboriginal communities. Through this study the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office wishes to gather facts about what money is spent in each of the Unama’ki communities on services and purchases.

“We expect this information will highlight some opportunities for local Aboriginals to focus their entrepreneurial energies on. We also hope this will encourage all Unama’ki communities to seek out local Aboriginal businesses for any services or purchases they require”, said Robert Bernard, Procurement Officer with the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office. “More positively, this is a study of economic opportunities in the Unama’ki communities. Before we can be sure of these economic opportunities, we need to gather the facts, thus this RFP”.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is focused on exploring new economic opportunities for Cape Breton’s five First Nation communities and maximizing Aboriginal participation in large industry and major industrial projects in Cape Breton. The steering committee for the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office also sees economic opportunity within the Unama’ki communities.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office opened in July 2007 with its unique collaborative approach to economic development by the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton. “In the 20th century there were many thousands working in the Cape Breton coal mines and the Sydney steel mill. The Mi’kmaq did not participate in this industrial revolution. But we are proud to be part of efforts to build a new economy in Cape Breton, said Dan Christmas, chair of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee. “We are pleased that our people and our businesses are participating in the $400 million Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project. These businesses are gaining experience, building capacity and proving themselves. The success of this unique partnership may well prove to be the true legacy of the Tar Ponds cleanup project.”

This success is the result of strong aboriginal leadership that recognized the importance of taking a business approach to pursuing economic opportunities. This leadership recognized the importance of collaboration and partnering with businesses and governments. This resulted in the establishment of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou. Its original initial goal was to ensure local Aboriginals play a significant role in $400 million cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds. Since the office opened in July 2007, it has securing agreement for more than $19 million in contracts with the Tar Ponds cleanup project. It also developed and secured funding for a multi-year, multi-million dollar training program for the five Unama’ki communities. This $7 million training program is known as ASEP, the Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership.

Aboriginals enjoy a position of strategic advantage in filling the shortage of skilled trades people within the regional economy. Island First Nations are bracing for a ‘demographic tsunami’ of young people who will be driving economic growth on and off reserves in years ahead. More than half of the population of the islands First Nation communities is under the age of 25 and with the proper training, they will help address the growing shortage of skilled trades people.

This success at the Tar Ponds has allowed the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office to now broaden it horizons and pursue new economic opportunities, especially those associated with port development, the environment and clean energy. “We also need to look in our own backyard,” said Bernard. Deadline for proposals is Feb.12 and it is expected the study will take four months to complete.

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Chapel Island Holds Business Workshop
“Let’s Build Stronger Communities” - “Ke L’tunej Naji Mlkiknaql Wutanimal”

February 1th, 2010

The First Nation community of Potlotek (Chapel Island) partnered with the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO) to deliver a day-long series of business workshops. The title for the Feb.1 workshops was “Let’s Build Stronger Communities”, or “Ke L’tunej Naji Mlkiknaql Wutanimal” in Mi’kmaw. Workshops included, “Entrepreneurship and Economy Building”, “Career Planning” and “Best Practices in Community Economic Development”. Cape Breton University and the St. Mary’s University business development centre’s presented on economic development best practices and the power of community inclusion and identifying opportunities through asset mapping.

Participants were also treated to the wisdom of the “Two Eyed Seeing Concept”. Two-Eyed Seeing is the descriptive label for an important guiding principle for one’s life journey. Albert Marshall, an elder from Eskasoni First Nation, along with Dr. Cheryl Bartlett from the Cape Breton University, explained how this refers to the process of learning how to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and then from the other eye with the strengths of the Western (or Eurocentric, conventional, or mainstream) knowledge and then the use of both together, for the benefit of all.

Lindsay Marshall, Director of the Mi’kmaq College Institute (MCI) at the Cape Breton University also presented on “Collaborative Goal Setting” and the importance of working together as a community to reach common goals and directions through mutual respect and inclusion. The organizing committee included Mr. Marshall, Nancy MacLeod, Potlotek Director of Education, Diane Basque, Potlotek Native Employment Officer, Alyssia Jeddore, UEBO Job Coach Officer and Robert Bernard UEBO Procurement & Community Business Liaison Officer. Part of the mandate of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is to conduct business workshops in all five Cape Breton First Nation communities.

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$2.6 Million New Funding For Unama’ki Communities

November 24th, 2009

Membertou, NS, - The five First Nation Communities in Cape Breton (Unama’ki) are to receive $2.6 million in new funding towards a very successful employment and skills development project, delivered by the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office. This funding is in addition to $4.3 million in funding announced by HRSDC in July 2008.

The Unama’ki Partnership for Prosperity Project is part of the Government of Canada’s Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership (ASEP) program. Under this program, Human Resources and Skills Development will provide up to 50% of the funding for Aboriginal employment and training with the remainder being contributed by community and industry partners. More than 160 local Aboriginal people have received training so far under the project which was approved at $2.1 million in 2008 for a total project cost of $4.3 million.

“This new funding will give Unama’ki communities the resources needed to mobilize Cape Breton’s First Nations labour force and create important new employment,” said Dan Christmas, chair of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee. “This training is vital to long-term economic success of our communities.”

"Our government is taking action to help Canadians participate in the workforce and get the training they need to make the most of employment opportunities, " said Diane Finly, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. "That's why the Economic Action Plan invested an additional $100 million in the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership Program. We are proud to provide $1.2 million for phase two of the Unama’ki Partnership for Prosperity Project which will provide training and skills development opportunities for Aboriginal people in the Cape Breton area. The project will allow community members to remain close to home and secure long-term employment.”

The training initiative is unique because in that partnerships with industry, the province, and educational/training institutions underpin the effort. ”We’re training people to meet the needs of industry,” said Alex Paul, Director with the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office and the person managing the Unama’ki ASEP project. “The focus of the ASEP program announced in 2008 was the construction industry and the Tar Ponds Cleanup project in particular. New ASEP funding will allow Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office to broaden its efforts in new areas of the economy such as port development, environmental remediation and green energy.”

More than 8,000 First Nations persons reside in Unama’ki and the ASEP initiative contemplates working with more than 500 First Nations men and woman and placing as many as 240 in full-time quality sustainable jobs in target sectors of the local economy.

Unama’ki First Nations have a Protocol Agreement with Canada and Nova Scotia respecting the remediation of the Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens sites. Specific aspects of the clean up have been declared Aboriginal set asides, that is work to be undertaken exclusively by First Nations. In total the work set aside for First Nations is valued at almost $20 million. The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee has been employing ASEP funding to ensure the impact of the tar ponds project on First Nations is optimized.

In recent months the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office has rolled out several training programs as part of the ASEP initiative. They include a “Foundations Training Program” to prepare people for entering or re-entering the workforce, a training program for “Women in the Trades” as well as the “BEAHR Environmental Training Program”. All are being delivered by the Nova Scotia Community College, Strait Campus and Marconi Campus, and in some cases within Unama’ki communities.

“Industry partners are providing job placements so ASEP clients get real job experience and some are offering clients full time jobs even before they complete their training,” said Alex Paul. Jason Johnson of Eskasoni , a student in the BEAHR Environmental Program delivered by the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), has a job placement with the Engineering firm, STANTEC, and they were so impressed, Jason has already been offered a full time job. “Now that’s success,” said Paul.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office opened in July 2007 and in two short years it has certainly accomplished a great deal. This is a story of success, the story of a unique collaborative approach to economic development by the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton (Unama’ki).

Aboriginals enjoy a position of strategic advantage in filling the shortage of skilled trades people within the regional economy. “Island First Nations are bracing for a ‘demographic tsunami’ of young people who will be driving economic growth on and off reserves in years ahead,” said Christmas. “More than half of the population of the islands First Nation communities is under the age of 25 and with the proper training, they will help address the growing shortage of skilled trades people.”

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Unama’ki Chamber of Commerce to have Official Launch

November 24th, 2009

Membertou, NS, - This event was attended by 130 aboriginal business people. Robert Bernard, Procurement Officer with the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office helped organize the event. Dan Christmas, Chair of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee officially announced the launched the Unama'ki Chamber. Guest speakers were Derrick Brown, a board member with the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce in Winnipeg, Joyce MacDougall, president of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce and regional Chief Rick Simmon.

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Chief Terry Paul of Membertou Inducted into Cape Breton Business Hall of Fame

September 17th, 2009

Chief Terry Paul of Membertou was inducted into Cape Breton Business Hall of Fame at a gala banquet held at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre on Thursday evening, September 17th. The banquet was attended by 350 people from the Cape Breton business community.

The Cape Breton Business Hall of Fame recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of outstanding Cape Breton business leaders, to perpetuate and inspire the values of entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and community leadership.

Chief Terrance Paul recently celebrated 25 years as the elected chief of one of the most progressive First Nation communities in Canada. "Mi’kmaw Chief Terrance Paul is a dedicated and highly respected leader in Nova Scotia," said Joe Shannon, a well known Cape Breton business leader, when he introduced Chief Paul at the Hall of Fame banquet. He has been instrumental in facilitating economic development and has fought hard to preserve the Mi’kmaw culture and language for his community and the Mi’kmaw Nation.

Chief Paul’s vision and determination has guided Membertou to become one of the most progressive, efficient, and sustainable native communities in the country. Membertou was the first Aboriginal government in the world to attain ISO certification. The economic success in Membertou is a testament to Paul’s leadership and the confidence he has in his people.

Other individuals inducted into the Cape Breton Business Hall of Fame with Chief Paul were, Nelson Latimer, Marjorie Fougere, Jim Wilkie and the late Greg Lynch. Proceeds from the Business hall of Fame gala held each year go towards a scholarship fund at Cape Breton University. To date, the Chamber has raised $107,000 that has been donated to this scholarship fund.

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Martin Visits Membertou to Speak about $52 Million CAPE Fund

September 14th, 2009

David Martin President of Bromart Holdings which owns and controls 100% of the Canadian Steamship Lines (CSL) Group visited Membertou First Nation on Monday, Sept.14. Mr. Martin meet with leadership of Unama’ki First Nations as well as Aboriginal business owners and entrepreneurs. He spoke about the $50 million Aboriginal Business Investment Fund, known as the CAPE Fund.

Former Prime Minister, Paul Martin and his son David, founded the CAPE Fund in March 2009. The fund’s investors include many of Canada’s largest corporations, international foundations and private individuals. These include Canada Steamship Lines, all major Canadian Banks and insurance companies, Xstrata and more.

The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office hosted a lunch for Mr. Martin at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre. Martin speak to a group of 60 Aboriginal business and community leaders.

Following the lunch the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee will meet with Mr. Martin in the Executive Boardroom to outline the recent success of the office, especially related to the Tar Ponds Cleanup project. They also discussed new economic opportunities that the First Nation Communities are pursuing.

“We invited Mr. Martin to join us here in Membertou so he can hear first hand about our success and the new economic opportunities we are now exploring,” said Dan Christmas, chairperson of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee. “We also want to learn about this new CAPE Fund and explore whether there might be opportunities to work together in promoting aboriginal business and entrepreneurship,”

As well as meeting with the local Aboriginal business leaders, Martin spoke to the membership of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce and the Cape Breton Partnership at a special breakfast held at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.

“The CAPE Fund reflects an emerging era of socially responsible investing, wherein knowledgeable investors realize that goals of generating financial returns, while concurrently generating positive social impact through business investment, are not mutually exclusive but often very much aligned,” says Martin.

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Support: Critical to Success: Alyssia Jeddore works with her First Nation Community

August 21st, 2009

Alyssia Jeddore is from the First Nation community of Eskasoni and she knows first hand the importance of education and support to succeed in these new economic times. Alyssia is a recent student herself, having completed a science degree from Cape Breton University (CBU) and her education degree from St. F.X. University. Alyssia was recently hired by the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou to work with students in Cape Breton’s five First Nation communities.

“Alyssia brings to use her knowledge and experience as a Mi’kmaq Student and Educator to assist students and new employees as the, Training Support, Job Coach Officer,” said Dan Christmas, Chair of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee. “ This is another important part of the puzzle as we build a strong team, a strong partnership and strong approach to economic development in Unama’ki,” said Christmas.

“I feel this position will allow me to assist Mi’kmaq students by using my personal experiences and by stressing the importance of education,” said Jeddore. “The best part is that not only do I get to work with people from my own community I also get to work with all of Unama’ki to strengthen and expand our Mi’kmaq workforce”. We intend on doing this through a collaborative approach between our office, students, employers as well as CBU and NSCC, all partners with us in this effort. We want to provide our industry partners with employees that meet their needs. We will continue to provide on-going support for individuals seeking employment as well as individuals who have recently gained employment.

A second major objective of Jeddore is to encourage more Mi’kmaq young people to study sciences in university and support the Mi’kmaq students that are now studying at CBU. There are more and more Mi’kmaq students going to university, but very few are entering science programs. The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee has made this one of our priorities”, said Dan Christmas. ‘We want to get more Mi’kmaq students studying science and engineering. Alyssia is hired to promote the sciences and ensure these students get all the support they need so they will succeed.

This is all part of an aggressive training program launched by the Cape Breton’s First Nation communities (Unama’ki), with the purpose of ensuring Cape Breton Mi’kmaq people participate in the growing opportunities within this new economy.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office has satellite offices in Eskasoni and Wagmatcook and Alyssia will work mostly out of Eskasoni, the largest of the First Nation communities in Cape Breton. She will service students in all five Unama’ki communities. She will also work closely with the Mi’kmaq Collage Institute at CBU. He job falls under the new Unama’ki ASEP Training program, the Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership, funded by HRSDC.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is the result of a unique collaborative approach to economic development by five First Nation communities in Nova Scotia. Cape Breton is building a strong new economy and the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton are proud to be part of this effort.

It is the result of strong aboriginal leadership that recognized the importance of taking a business approach to pursuing economic opportunities. They recognized the importance of collaboration, partnering with business and the importance of education and training. To ensure successful participation be the Unama’ki communities in local economic development, the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office developed a detailed training plan, resulting in the Unama’ki ASEP Training project, called the Unama’ki Partnership for Prosperity Association.

The goal of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is to maximize the near-term economic benefits for Unama’ki communities, meaning jobs and contracts. It is also focused on expanding the long-term expertise and economic capacity of Unama’ki communities and businesses. The immediate opportunity that drove this initiative was the $400 Million Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup Project, the legacy of 100 years of steel making and 300 years of coal mining in Cape Breton.

The Tar Pond project is still an important part of this economic development effort. It is providing valuable experience and helping build capacity and expertise and perhaps most importantly, it allowed the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office to broaden its horizons and explore other economic opportunities and partnerships.

“Success of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office, is due to its strong business approach to economic development, strong engagement of the communities through its steering committee, strong communication, effective partnering efforts with government and industry, a strong training program that is tied to industry needs and support for the people in training and support for the people that are starting new jobs.. This is just the beginning!” said Dan Christmas, Chair of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee.

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Cape Breton First Nation Communities Launch Aggressive Environmental Training Program

August 5th, 2009

Cape Breton’s First Nation communities (Unama’ki) have launched an aggressive training program to ensure Cape Breton Mi’kmaq people participate in the growing opportunities within the environmental industry.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office has contracted the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) to deliver a series of environmental training sessions in the Cape Breton First Nation communities to build expertise in the environmental industry.

The first training class is nearing completion in the Cape Breton First Nation community of Waycobah. Fifteen Mi’kmaq students are participating in this 15-week training program which includes eight weeks of classroom training and 10 weeks of on the job training. “This class is the first of three environmental monitoring training programs to be put on by NSCC in Unama’ki communities this year,” said Alyssia Jeddore, Training Support-Job Coach Officer with the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office. “We feel there is great employment opportunity in the environmental industry and the Unama’ki communities would like to build an expertise in this sector.”

The training program was developed by the national BEAHR organization. “BEAHR (Building Environmental Aboriginal Human Resources) was set up by ECO Canada and has undertaken an important task of increasing Aboriginal employment in the environmental sector, through career awareness programs, training programs and on the job experience”, said Claire LeFebvre, National Training Program Coordinator for BEAHR. LeFebvre is visiting Cape Breton to check out the Unama’ki training program.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is the result of a unique collaborative approach to economic development by five First Nation communities in Nova Scotia. Cape Breton is building a strong new economy and the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton are proud to be part of this effort.

It is the result of strong aboriginal leadership that recognized the importance of taking a business approach to pursuing economic opportunities. They recognized the importance of collaboration, partnering with business and the importance of education and training. To ensure successful participation be the Unama’ki communities in local economic development, the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office developed a detailed training plan, resulting in the Unama’ki ASEP project, called the Unama’ki Partnership for Prosperity Association. This environmental training, under the BEAHR program, is part of this extensive Unama’ki training initiative.

The goal of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is to maximize the near-term economic benefits for Unama’ki communities, meaning jobs and contracts. It is also focused on expand the long-term expertise and economic capacity of Unama’ki communities and businesses. The immediate opportunity that drove this initiative was the $400 Million Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup Project, the legacy of 100 years of steel making and 300 years of coal mining in Cape Breton.

After years of planning and negotiation, in October 2008, the Unama’ki communities concluded an agreement for the first Nova Scotia Aboriginal set-asides, totaling over $19 million for work on the Tar Ponds Cleanup project over the next five years.

This long-term commitment allows the Unama'ki communities, through the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office, to plan and train for these opportunities. In March 2009, the result of early success by First Nation companies working on the Tar Ponds cleanup, one of the most significant contracts to date in the $400 million cleanup project was awarded to a Unama’ki company, MB2 Construction, for a $37.6 million contract.

“The contract is in addition to an earlier agreed upon $19 million in Aboriginal set asides and it is important to note that this $37 million contract was not a set-aside and was won by an Aboriginal company in a bidding process that was open to any construction company. This is real success, and we’re building upon this success”, said Owen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office.

The local First Nation communities are now considered an integral part of the local economy and the local business community. The Tar Pond project is still an important part of this economic development effort. It is providing valuable experience and helping build capacity and expertise and perhaps most importantly, it allowed the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office to broaden its horizons and explore other economic opportunities and partnerships.

“Success of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office, is due to its strong business approach to economic development, strong engagement of the communities through its steering committee, strong communication, effective partnering efforts with government and industry and a strong training program that is tied to industry needs. This is just the beginning!” said Dan Christmas, Chair of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee.

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Cape Breton First Nation Communities Partner with NSCC

May 4th, 2009

Port Hawkesbury, NS - A partnership between the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton and the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), will see 145 Mi’kmaq in Cape Breton trained to fill industry needs.

This is just he start of an aggressive training program our communities are rolling out under our Unama’ki ASEP Training Program” said Dan Christmas, Chair of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee. ASEP is the Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership, a program of the federal government. The Unama’ki ASEP Training Program involves a partnership between the communities, government, industry and also different training or educational institutions.

Some unique training programs that will be offered including Aboriginal Women Trades Orientation and Career Exploration, Environmental Sectors Foundation training and, Environmental Monitoring training. These programs will prepare students with the skills they need to enter the workforce or to continue their education in a field of their choice at the Strait Area or Marconi Campus of NSCC. “We’re working closely with our business partners so that we understand what their current and future needs will be when it comes to human resources and we’re preparing our people to fill these needs”, said Christmas.

“NSCC is pleased to be involved in this unique partnership that will allow the Aboriginal people in Cape Breton to gain new skills to meet the growing labour market demands. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office and their ASEP program to create and develop this new skills training,” says Joan McArthur-Blair, President, NSCC.

NSCC is a vibrant post-secondary institution committed to building Nova Scotia's economy and quality of life through education and innovation. NSCC offers over 100 programs in five academic schools that reflect the labour market needs and opportunities of the provincial economy, and serves the province through a network of 13 campuses. According to NSCC's most recent survey of graduates (2008), 92 per cent of NSCC graduates are employed; 88 per cent in their field of study.

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Cape Breton Business Leaders Visit BC Container Terminal

April 5th, 2009

Prince Rupert, BC - Representatives of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce and the Cape Breton First Nation community, both members of the Sydney Ports Advocacy Council, are in British Columbia this week, to visit the new container terminal in Prince Rupert. “We are doing investigative work with Port Rupert to better understand the social and economic issues associated with container terminal development, and we want to better understand the employment opportunities surrounding the port development”, said Fitzgerald.

“Construction on a new $200 million container terminal in the Port of Sydney is expected to get underway later this year,” said Owen Fitzgerald, president of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, one of those visiting Prince Rupert. “The new container terminal planned for the Port of Sydney is a huge opportunity and could have a significant impact on our community’s economic future. We need to learn more of the specifics of the opportunity and make sure we are ready. Since Prince Rupert is a very new container terminal, one that opened in late 2007, their challenges and solutions, their equipment and technology are very current and can provide us with some great insight into how we should move forward with our Sydney Container Terminal,” said Fitzgerald.

Alex Paul of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou, Nova Scotia, is also in Prince Rupert. Paul is hoping to learn more about an aboriginal partnership with the Prince Rupert container terminal and hopes to apply some of what he learns in planning for aboriginal participation in the planned Sydney container terminal and perhaps with the Melford container terminal in Port Hawkesbury.

Maynard Angus, the Manager of Public Affairs for the Prince Rupert Port Authority extended the invitation for Fitzgerald and Paul to visit the Prince Rupert terminal. Angus, who is aboriginal, is also the director of an Aboriginal Employment Skills Partnership that local First Nations have with the Prince Rupert terminal. Paul said, “The Cape Breton First Nation communities are also cultivating a partnership with the Sydney container terminal. This port development will be significant for Cape Breton and for Cape Breton Mi’kmaq”.

This is a great opportunity, not just for the Cape Breton First Nation communities, but for all Cape Breton,” said Alex Paul, “We need to be successful in business if we are to be self sufficient and have self determination.”

It was almost two years ago that the five Unama’ki communities formed a unique economic partnership to pursue exciting new economic opportunities. This partnership resulted in the establishment of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou. The goal of the office is to maximize the economic benefit from major construction projects like the Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup Project and this new container terminal. To date, the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office has shown significant results.

The emergence of new economic titans, China and India, has been driving the expansion of world commerce. This was, in large part, the motivation for the development of the Sydney Ports Master Plan. Traditional Asian routing across the Pacific and through North American west coast ports have experienced system-wide failures because of terminal, rail and road capacity limitations.

The main ports on the west coast of North America were Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, L.A. and Long Beach. All these container terminals on the west coast of North America are basically right in the center of the city – trains and trucks have to travel through the city to move to points eastward and this is what is creating the congestion; this is what is slowing down the logistics chain in every other corridor. “This is what is so appealing to this new transportation corridor that we have developing here in Prince Rupert,” said Don Krusel, President & CEO Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA). The Prince Rupert Container Terminal opened in October 2007. This is part of what makes the Port of Sydney so attractive as well.

In the 1990s, the BC government and the federal government moved forward with what was called the Pacific Gateway Strategy. Their goal was to have 9 million TEUs moving through British Columbia ports by the year 2020. In 1995 there was just 1.2 million TEUs in BC, those being in Vancouver and Vancouver couldn’t handle much more.

The Suez Canal is now becoming the new shipping route to North America and very few ports on the North American east coast can handle the new jumbo container ships, ships over 10,000 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit). This presents the opportunity for the Port of Sydney. A modern 750,000 TEU capacity Phase 1 container terminal in Sydney, accessible via a harbour channel deepened to 17 meters, is a viable alternative for new container services that use the Suez.

The concept of Prince Rupert of being a world port was met with a lot of snickering. There is not the same level of skepticism today because we are recognized now throughout the world as a port that is becoming a critical gateway.

The four container terminals in Vancouver are currently shipping just over 2 million containers. With Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Prince Rupert terminal development, capacity will almost equal the total capacity of the entire Port of Vancouver and Prince Rupert has plans for a second container terminal. Mr. Krusel points out that the record-breaking 1.8 million tonnes of container cargo which moved through the Prince Rupert Fairview Terminal during 2008 is demonstrated proof of the success and value of the government and private-sector investment in the container terminal.

Fairview Container Terminal in Prince Rupert, BC, handled 181,890 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) from 78 vessels in its first full year of operations, following the facility’s opening in late October, 2007. In the fourth quarter, the terminal operated at greater than 60 per cent of its 500,000 TEU capacity with a throughput of 79,106 TEUs.

“The PRPA are delivering on their commitment to providing shipping customers with unparalleled reliability, speed and cost effectiveness,” notes Mr. Krusel. “This is more crucial now than ever before because the global economic turmoil is drastically affecting their businesses.”

“We can learn from Prince Rupert, and that is why we are visiting this new container terminal,” said Fitzgerald.

Contact Info:

Owen Fitzgerald
President
Sydney & Area Chamber of Commerce
Cell: 902-565-6293

Maynard Angus
Manager Public Affairs
Prince Rupert Port Authority
Prince Rupert, BC
Cell: 250-624-1372
www.rupertport.com

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First Atlantic Aboriginal Women In Business Conference

March 22nd, 2009

Halifax, NS - More than 250 Aboriginal businesswomen attended the first ever Atlantic Aboriginal Women In Business Conference, held at the Weston Hotel in Halifax, Mar.22-24. The three-day conference was hosted by the Membertou Entrepreneur Centre. Eileen Paul, manager of the Membertou Entrepreneur Centre and conference chair, started work almost a year ago planning this event.

The Halifax event was an expanded edition of a 2008 conference held in Membertou. More than 60 delegates attended last year, and Paul said she is hopeful that moving the conference to Halifax would enable more aboriginal women to attend. “This year’s event builds on the successes of the Membertou conference and we are so pleased that, through our partners, we are able to engage many more women from all over Atlantic Canada,” Paul said.

The theme for the conference is “Balance,” helping aboriginal women deal with balancing the needs of family and the needs of business. The conference included workshops on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, trying to grow your business, and plenary discussions and individual mentoring appointments to assist delegates in specific areas of business.

The working component of the conference was complemented by a fashion show focused on “dressing for success.” The keynote speaker was Leslie Lounsbury, founder of SAY Magazine, a national publication for aboriginal youth. The conference’s emcee was Holly Bernier, former national news anchor for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

Paul pointed out that there have been many business conferences, some women in business conferences, but never an aboriginal women in business conference until she organized a pilot in March 2008 in Membertou. She hoped for 25-30 women at the conference in Membertou last year, mostly women from the five First Nation communities in Cape Breton. But within days of announcing the conference in Membertou, she had 60 people registered from across Nova Scotia.

Paul pointed out that many aboriginal women actually have more experience in business than their male counterparts, especially in cottage industry and home-based businesses.

“I knew in my heart that this was something much needed by the aboriginal women across Nova Scotia,” said Paul, “and this proved it.” Following the Membertou conference, Paul had many people encouraging her to organize another conference, a bigger conference for aboriginal women. This year we decided to hold this “Atlantic Aboriginal Women in Business Conference” in Halifax at the Weston Hotel. “It was a team effort and it took a lot of hard work to pull this off, but what a great success,” said Paul.

The conference opened Sunday evening with a welcome from Chief Terrance Paul of Membertou. The conference includes workshops, special speakers and networking and of course a fashion show. There was a banquet Monday evening and the conference concluded Tuesday after lunch.

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Membertou Company Wins $37 Million Tar Ponds Contract

March 7th, 2009

Membertou, NS - The most significant contract to date in the $400 million cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds and Cokes Ovens has been awarded a First Nations Company in Membertou, NS. MB2 Construction was successful with a bid of $37.6 million to build a complex water diversion system to allow the movement of millions of gallons of water daily around the tar ponds in preparation for thesolidification and stabilization of both beginning later this year.

On Saturday, the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Defence and Nova Scotia Minister of Justice,Cecil Clarke, were in Membertou Saturday to announce the contract that was award to a joint venture involving Beaver Marine Ltd. of Port Hawkesbury and MB2 Excavation and Construction Ltd. The contract is in addition to an earlier agreed upon $19 million in Aboriginal set asides.

Chief Terrance Paul of Membertou said, “This is HUGE! Building on the earlier successful solidification and stabilization of the Cooling Pond, MB2 Excavation and Construction jointly bid thisproject outside the set-aside framework and won. This is an important milestone for First Nations companies in respect of the cleanup.”

The contract consists of three construction phases. The first phase is the construction of a pumpingstation between Prince Street and Ferry Street Bridge; the second station will be built between Ferry Street Bridge and the narrows of the north tar pond; and a final station will be built between the narrowsand Battery Point Barrier located at the mouth of Sydney Harbour. Walls made from steel panels will beused to block the tide coming from the Harbour and manage a variety of other water sources. In the event of a heavy storm, surplus water will drain into the tar ponds. This contract should be completed in2012.

“We are building on the success of the Cooling Pond remediation project, said Robin Googoo, President of MB2 Construction. “We were one of the first companies in eastern Canada to gain hands on experience in stabilization and solidification. That gave us confidence and allowed us to build capacity in preparation for this new contract.”

In the fall of 2007, the Federal and Provincial government awarded the first ever aboriginal set-aside in this province. This cooling pond project was a $5 million undertaking. It was awarded three Cape Breton Aboriginal construction companies.

According to leadership of Tar Ponds Cleanup, the Cooling Pond project was a clear success largelyattributable to the aboriginal contractors working on the project.

This is positive, not just for the Cape Breton First Nation communities, but for all Cape Breton. And this is just the beginning,” said Chief Paul, “We need to be successful in business if we are to be self sufficient and have self determination.”

It was almost two years ago that the five Unama’ki communities formed a unique economic partnershipto pursue exciting new economic opportunities, including the Sydney Tar Ponds cleanup project. This partnership resulted in the establishment of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou. The goal of the office is to maximize the economic benefit from major construction projects like the Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup Project. To date, it has shown significant results.

Robin Googoo said, “We built a partnership for this job because of its complexity. Our joint venture has all the experience and resources needed to be successful. This is how business is done. This will mean million of dollars in work for our company and will mean dozens of good jobs for local Mi’kmaq.”
Chief Paul went on to say, “Our people and our companies are gaining valuable experience and building important business relationships. Now we are seeing the fruits of this hard work.”

In January 2007, the government of Canada and province of Nova Scotia committed $400 million toensure the cleanup is completed by 2014.


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Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup Underway with Local Companies

July 28th, 2008

At a press conference in Membertou on July 28, the Federal Government announced a multi-year, multi-million dollar training program, for the Unama’ki communities. This initiative is the result of a unique partnership of the Unama’ki communities, the federal and provincial governments, industry, unions and training organizations. The project is called the “Unama’ki Part nership For Prosperity,” and is part of the Federal governments Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership program (ASEP). The focus of this program is to tie training to industry needs. In January 2007, the Five Cape Breton First Nation communities established a unique economic partnership. A steering committee was formed and is comprised of two to three representatives from each Unama’ki community. In 2007, the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office was established in Membertou to implement the economic development and training directives of the steering committee.

The goal is to maximize the near-term economic benefits for Unama’ki communities by securing contracts and thereby creating jobs. The intent is to expand the long-term expertise and economic capacity of Unama’ki Communities and Businesses, this, resulting from major construction projects like the $400 million Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup project.

To ensure maximum participation by members of the Unama’ki communities and to build upon the recent success of Unama’ki construction companies working on the Tar Ponds Cleanup project, training is required. This is what the “Unama’ki Partnership For Prosperity” is all about. Ms. Lynne Yelich, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Monte Solberg, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development (HRSDC), made the announcement along with Chief Terrance J. Paul of the Membertou First Nation at a press conference at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre on July 28.

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Cape Breton’s Five First Nation Communities Establish Unique Economic Partnership


The Five First Nations communities in Cape Breton have joined forces to open a new office mandated to maximize economic benefits of major construction projects happening on the island.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office is located on Doucettes Lane in Membertou. It serves as a liaison between the aboriginal communities; both aboriginal and non-aboriginal businesses; and the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency. “This partnership between communities and industry will provide important jobs and experience and help our communities build capacity,” said Dan Christmas, Chairperson of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee.

Owen Fitzgerald, a well known Sydney businessman, has been hired as Director for this new office. The Economic Benefits Office also hired Mary Collier of Potlotek, as the Community Business Liaison Officer. Eileen Paul of Membertou also works with the Economic Benefits Office.

In January, representatives of Cape Breton’s five First Nations communities agreed to create a Unama’ki Economic Benefits (Tar Ponds) Steering Committee. The committee identified the need for a focused approach and worked quickly to establish the economic benefits office. Its current goal is to secure greater Aboriginal participation in the Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup and other Cape Breton construction projects as they unfold.

Local First Nations communities expect to secure a minimum of $8 million in contracts with the Tar Ponds cleanup and employ a minimum of 20 aboriginals. The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Steering Committee emphasizes that these numbers are minimum targets. They plan to be aggressive and proactive in securing contracts; they hope to gain up to $38 million in contracts to employ as many as 60 full-time workers.

“The experience gained by participating in this major project will build economic capacity in local First Nation communities and businesses and allow for greater participation by aboriginals in Cape Breton’s improving economy,” said Christmas. “This is a major opportunity. Through partnerships and collaboration, we feel the Unama’ki communities can gain jobs, experience and expand our capacity.”

Office staff are working on an assessment of assets and capabilities within the five communities. This will be matched with a detailed analysis of the needs of the Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup. The results will help identify which part of the cleanup project Unama’ki communities and businesses should focus their resources.

As well, the Economic Benefits Office will provide guidance and organize training to ensure Unama’ki businesses are successful with proposals and bids. The office will also explore possible partnerships between Aboriginal companies and non-Aboriginal companies.

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