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Indigenous enterprises recognized for business excellence

Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund acknowledges seven business leaders

Indigenous businesses from across the North were recognized for their achievements in business by the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund (NADF) in Timmins on Oct. 18.

Seven awards were bestowed on businesses based in NADF’s service area, which encompasses the areas of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Robinson-Superior 1850 and Treaty #3.

Proceeds raised through the event go toward the Dennis Franklin Cromarty Memorial Fund, which funds bursaries for Indigenous students, and the NADF Sponsorship Fund, which supports sponsorship requests from communities the NADF serves.

Brian Davey, NADF’s executive director, said seeing Aboriginal businesses recognized for their success is the “highlight of our year.”

“Over the past 28 years, the NADF Awards have showcased 175 award recipients and provided a stage for them to share their stories,” Davey said in a news release. “Aboriginal small business is growing and experiencing widespread success in terms of profitability and success. They are diverse and are doing business across all industry sectors and markets.

“Tonight’s award recipients are but a small example of how Aboriginal business is succeeding and contributing to building a strong and vibrant economy in Northern Ontario.” 

A list of the awards and their recipients follows:

Businessman of the Year: Pete Beaucage Jr., Praztek Construction (Timmins)

Established in 2003, Praztek Construction has more than $25 million invested in property and apartment complexes, commercial leasing space and more than 100 residential custom property builds for clients, recently completing 18 residential affordable housing units for the Timmins Native Friendship Centre. The company is currently undergoing an expansion plan that would see the business expand into the industrial and mining sectors.

Corporation of the Year: Innlink Concrete Ltd. (Moose Factory)

Established in 1998, Innlink Concrete Ltd. is headquartered in Moose Factory and owned by Moose Cree First Nation members Wayne Innes (president), Gary Innes (vice-president), and Caroline Innes (business manager). The business offers winter road construction and maintenance, gravel hauls, concrete batch plant, storm sewer repair, snow removal, transportation services, and heavy equipment rentals, and has served as sub-contractors for building construction projects, including the Lower Mattagami hydro development project.

New Business of the Year: Foster Jane Eatery (Timmins)

Michael Yorke, a member of Moose Factory, launched Foster Jane Eatery and catering service in 2017 in the Ramada Inn in Timmins. The family-friendly restaurant offers homestyle meals and quality service, and supports local enterprises buy purchasing from local suppliers. The menu selections put a new spin on family favorite meals and is the only restaurant in Timmins to offer fresh-baked bannock.

Businesswoman of the Year: Caroline Innes, business manager, Innlink Concrete Ltd.

A member of the Moose Cree First Nation, Caroline Innes is the business manager for Innlink Concrete Ltd., a role that requires her to oversee various aspects of the business, including financial, administration, and contract procurement management, and she is also involved in the purchase and maintenance of heavy equipment. She’s additionally an active community volunteer, offering bookkeeping services to maintain the books at the Moosonee Anglican Church.

Partnership of the Year: Agoke Development Corporation (Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls First Nations)

Agoke Development Corporation is a precedent setting co-operation agreement between the First Nations of Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls. Over the past two years, Agoke has successfully managed and administered the provincial road funding and advocated for a new $600,000 pilot project for bridge and road repairs to establish access blocks for the Nakina Sawmill. Agoke is the only First Nations management entity in Ontario to manage the road funding for the forest management unit they are in.

Youth Entrepreneur of the Year: Kaden Kanakakeesic, Sioux Knives (Sioux Lookout)

Kaden Kanakakeesic, 19, taught himself to make hand-made knives, turning that skill into a small home-based business, Sioux Knives while still attending high school. After graduating last spring, he was successful in applying for a grant from Summer Company to start his business, using the funds to purchase new equipment and tools for his workshop.

Award of Recognition: Jason Batise, executive director, Wabun Tribal Council 

Over a 28-year career, Jason Batise, a member of Matachewan First Nation, has contributed to the success of various projects within the Wabun Tribal Council (WTC) territory, which represents six First nation communities in the Timmins area. He has also overseen the negotiation and signing of Impacts and Benefits Agreements, and major resource development agreements and Treaty Land Entitlement Claims. In his current role, Batise oversees the council’s daily operations, including representing the communities’ interests at local and regional forums and in dealings with the municipal, provincial and federal government programs and initiatives.

NADF is a non-profit, wholly owned Aboriginal organization providing financial assistance (loans, mortgages, lines of credit, and grants), business counselling services and community planning services to Aboriginal clients, on- and off-reserve, across Northern Ontario. NADF’s vision is Aboriginal prosperity and its goal is to empower Northern Ontario’s growing Aboriginal population through business and economic development.