Located along the province's busiest highway, Millbrook First Nation near Truro is well-positioned for economic growth.

Tuesday October 27, 2009

NOTE: The following feature story was written for the Nova Scotia Come to life initiative and celebrates Mi'kmaq History Month in Nova Scotia.

The community's retail park, the Truro Power Centre, is thriving, securing close to a dozen tenants since it opened in 2001.

Building on that success, Millbrook is now ready to start phase two of the park's development. A $4.5 million infrastructure project set to start in fall 2009 will see an additional nine hectares cleared for roads, water and sewer.

"The power centre, which is funded in part from provincial gaming agreement revenues, has done well over the past nine years," says Millbrook's Chief Lawrence Paul. "It's created employment and wealth opportunities not just for Millbrook, but for the surrounding community as well. There are now more than 800 people who work there."

A total of 32 hectares along Highway 102 is allocated for lease and development in the power centre's business plan. Twelve hectares were developed and leased as part of phase one. After the phase two is completed, another 11 hectares to the south will remain as part of phase three.

"Our model for the park is to attract businesses who want to partner with us for long-term sustainability," says Chief Paul. "Generally, we lease the land, a building or both and then let the company focus on running the operation, to do what they have expertise in doing."

Pacrim Hospitality Services of Halifax developed and manages the successful Super 8 Motel located at the power centre. Glenn Squires, CEO of Pacrim, says Millbrook's practical business model works well for the firm, one of Canada's largest privately-owned hotel management companies.

"We enjoy working with Millbrook and had a great experience with the partnership model, which works to the advantage of all," says Squires. "The relationship is very collaborative and geared to a win-win over the duration of any given project. We have done several quite successful projects with Millbrook and plan to do more in the future."

Power Centre businesses include a multiplex theatre, sit-down and drive-through restaurants, a 50-room hotel, a recreational vehicle retailer, a service station, a call centre, an aquaculture facility and the Glooscap Heritage Centre.

Truro Power Centre is not the only location Millbrook has to offer for partnership opportunities. The band owns other lands in Nova Scotia, including 19 hectares in Cole Harbour.

In the past five years, the area has seen significant activity. The band built two apartment buildings in 2003 and 2007 worth more than $11 million. The buildings were designed specifically for empty nesters.

In 2004, Millbrook and General Dynamics Canada partnered on a bid to manufacture helicopters for Canada's military. Millbrook committed to build and then lease an $11-million building to General Dynamics to house the software support and upgrades component for the project. Opened in September 2008, the facility will employ up to 150 people in skilled technology jobs in the coming years.

"These jobs mean First Nations people have the chance to get well-paying and fulfilling jobs near their home community," says Chief Paul. "If we can encourage our young people to go into fields like software engineering, there are great employment opportunities here."

He says the band works to promote development with a holistic approach, making sure development revenues and spin-off jobs contribute to a better standard of living for the community.

"Success means working toward financial self-sufficiency and improving education opportunities for our young people," says Chief Paul. "Education and economic development are the lifeline of our people."

The community has programs in place to help its children succeed in school, both academically and socially.

"Millbrook students go to provincial schools, so we work closely with the schools and school board," says Millbrook's education director Debbie Gloade. "That includes having native support workers in local schools where our students attend. We have many initiatives to help promote education, and give individualized attention to all the students, like after-school programs, lunch programs and literacy support.

"Because of these initiatives, success in schools continues to increase."

"The focus on youth and education pays off in many ways," says Chief Paul. "When our young people are encouraged to take pride in their achievements and their culture, they are more likely to become role models themselves."

The band's economic development team has worked together for about 15 years, and although the community is not self-sufficient yet, the chief says they are on their way.

The creation of Truro Power Centre, with its model of partnering with outside companies, has shown the band's commitment to trying new things. "We designated land for lease on a First Nation," said Chief Paul, "that was not common at the time."

As he nears his twenty-fifth year as chief, Paul reflects on significant changes in his community. "It seems that for a long time, native people were just spinning their wheels. Now they are more aggressive to take part in business. They are not bashful."
 

Source: Aboriginal Affairs

Innovative-approach
"The model for the Power Center is to attract businesses who want to partner with us for long-term sustainability. We work with them to structure a jointly beneficial arrangement at the outset...and then let the company focus on running the operation--to do what they have expertise in doing."
- Lawrence Paul, Millbrook First Nation