The Stoney Nation is comprised of the Bearspaw, Chiniki, and Wesley First Nations. Each band is represented by a chief and council. With a population of more than 1,800 people, the Bearspaw First Nation is the largest band in the Stoney community. It is also one of the most successful.
The Nation opened the Bearspaw Service Center in 2013 as an independent business. The center has a Centex gas station, convenience store as well as a Subway. Since its opening, the center has generated $12 million in revenue.
The Nation is also the proud owner of Stoney Nakoda Telecom, a hi-tech Internet service provider that now provides high-speed Internet and phone service to more than 500 customers in Morley as well as Eden Valley, the Stoney Nation’s southern reserve. This business is co-owned by the Chiniki First Nation. Together, these businesses employ up to 30 Nation members. They have also generated enough profit for the Bearspaw First Nation to begin new projects in 2016.
According to Rob Shotclose, CEO of the Bearspaw administration, the Nation is planning to open the Bearspaw Kananaskis Travel Center, an exciting venture that will be located near the Stoney Nakoda Resort. Construction for this center is set to begin anytime and will house an Esso gas station, Tim Hortons as well a convenience store. Shotclose believes this venture will employ 25-35 Nation members.
These businesses are owned or co-owned by the Bearspaw First Nation. To maximize profit, the CEO is adamant that the Nation owns its businesses instead of leasing out buildings and collecting fees as has been the practice in the past with Stoney enterprises. Ownership of the Bearspaw Service Center has generated profits each year and is considerable revenue for the Nation.
Plans are also underway for Eden Valley, a community of mostly Bearspaw members. For example, the Eden Valley Gas Bar will soon be under re-development and the Bearspaw Chief and Council will be seeking advice from residents as to future economic development plans.
I was thinking of how excited community members were about Internet and Subway coming to our community as I interviewed the CEO. With Tim Hortons on its way as well an Esso gas station, it occurred to me that Bearspaw First Nation has truly brought the Stoney community into the 21st century.
I asked Mr. Shotclose how all this was possible. He advised that the Bearspaw chief and council allow the administration to be run professionally.
“Leadership allows people to manage. You got to have focus and be allowed to focus. As a band member, I have been given the authority to make changes.”
Indeed Shotclose, who is a Bearspaw member, is making progressive changes. A lack of political interference and meddling has allowed this young leader to effect change. He humbly credits Chief Darcy Dixon and his council for their visionary leadership.
Chief Dixon is a young, educated leader with a diploma in Social Work from Mount Royal University. Shotclose is a graduate of the University of Calgary with a degree in political science. It is inspiring to observe what Chief Dixon and his council and Mr. Shotclose and his administration have achieved with just $1.4 million in provincial grants and funds drawn from the Stoney Nation Economic Development Trust Fund. With effective leadership, good things are possible.
I wonder what’s next?