Throughout Alberta, Indigenous communities and entrepreneurs are contributing to the economy in growing numbers. Thanks to these services and government programs, Indigenous-owned businesses are gaining access to the capital needed to thrive.
And there’s a lot of ground to make up. A 2021 report from Alberta Treasury Branch predicts that $2.5–3 billion could be added to the Alberta economy in one year if wage gaps that currently exist in the province’s Indigenous population are remedied.
Though the Indigenous population makes up the fastest growing group in the province, only one per cent of the province’s businesses are Indigenous-owned. So, growing the economic potential of our province’s Indigenous peoples presents major opportunities for those looking to invest in the province.
Logistics Solutions Energy (LSE) is one example. It’s a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned company, headquartered in the Grande Prairie region approximately 456 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, that delivers solutions for well closure, remediation and reclamation for the oil and gas industry. Just under two years old, the company was founded with the intention of serving as a liaison between Indigenous communities, industry and government.
“When I was building the company, I was asking: How do we train and educate and resource the First Nations and also work with the municipalities? How do we get local working vendors to start adding value to First Nations and take that value and add it to industry?” explains Charles Rouleau, CEO, Logistics Solutions Energy. “Once we figured out that formula, we could get all three parties working together.”
The Alberta government’s Site Rehabilitation Program (SRP) provides grants to contractors to perform closure and reclamation work. If Indigenous oilfield service companies are used, recipients can receive 100 per cent of the project value through grant funding. Logistics Solutions Energy contracts with Indigenous-owned businesses local to the areas in which they’re working, so they’re eligible for funding, but they needed help — and that included working with RBC (Royal Bank of Canada).
“When building the concept of the company, it revolved around how we collaborate, educate, grow community, grow First Nations-owned business, protect Mother Earth and all of her children, engage industry and work alongside Alberta Energy,” says Rouleau. “I am proud to be working with Alberta SRP program, RBC team, our LSE team, First Nations-owned business from Sucker Creek First Nation and the producer on executing abandonments. There was a community plan of growth, and building a better environment for our youth and our Elders. It was quite remarkable to see, and I am happy to say our Nation abandonments are complete; lands are clean and we are now looking ahead for future development.”
“One of the conditions of the grant is to show proof of payment to all the employees and vendors,” says Michael Goetting, commercial account manager, Indigenous Markets, Alberta and Territories, with RBC. “We provide working capital financing so they can pay their people and vendors to receive the grant.”
Banks are offering services like this to help Indigenous communities establish financial independence, develop their own economies and contribute to Alberta’s economy. They take into account whether the business is owned individually, by the Nation, or a combination of the two.
There are many unique financing solutions that can be used by Indigenous communities to support their priorities such as housing programs, community projects, business initiatives and major infrastructure projects such as renewable energy.
“We take a thoughtful approach to ensuring we work closely with our First Nation, Métis and Inuit clients and customize solutions to fit their needs. We provide solutions that will meet their needs today and for future generations,” says Goetting.
Having access to capital has made a huge difference for Logistics Solutions Energy. “It’s important that we can pay people on time,” says Rouleau. “Then they can spend money in their nations and other municipalities, and grow their businesses.”
Investment and a prepared workforce leads to opportunity.