Millbrook First Nation Community

Wednesday December 9, 2009

Located along the province’s busiest highway, Millbrook Mi’kmaw Community near Truro is well-positioned for economic growth. 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.

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 completion of Phase Two, another 11 hectares to the south remain as part of Phase Three.

“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 over 800 people who work there.

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

Pacrim Hospitality Services of Halifax were the developers and currently manage the successful Super 8 Motel located at the Power Centre. Glenn Squires, CEO of Pacrim, says Millbrook’s practical business model works well for his firm, one of Canada’s largest privately-owned hotel management companies.

“We enjoy working with Millbrook,” says Squires, “and have had a great experience with Millbrook’s partnership model which works to the advantage of all. 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.”

Current 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 that Millbrook has to offer for partnership opportunities. The Band owns other lands in Nova Scotia, including 19 hectares in Cole Harbour, Dartmouth.

In the past five years, the area has seen significant activity. In 2003 and 2007, the Band built two apartment buildings worth over $11 million, specifically targeted 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 helicopter project. Officially 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.”

Chief Paul says the Band works to promote development with a holistic approach—making sure that 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 the education opportunities for our young people,” says Chief Paul. “Education and economic development are the lifeline of our people.”

On the education front, 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,” says Gloade. “Because of these initiatives, success in schools continues to increase.”

The focus on youth and education pays off in many ways, says 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.”

As Paul nears his twenty-fifth year as chief, he 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.”

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 itself—with its model of partnering with outside companies—showed the Band’s commitment to try new things. “We designated land for lease on a First Nation,” said Chief Paul, “that was not common at the time.”


 

Source: Susan Corning

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