By Jennifer McCauley
Whitefish Lake First Nation is taking action to encourage economic development and growth in the community through the construction of a multi-use business park.
Although the park is still in the design and environmental study phase, economic development officer Linda Petahtegoose says they are hoping to be open for business next fall.
"At present we are still contemplating how the facility will be constructed," Petahtegoose says. "Either the business people leasing the park lots will build their own building, or we will build the facility. When the engineering design is completed, in about three months, we will know which route we will take."
The facility is expected to stretch over 18 lots and be serviced with sewer and water.
Although the project has not yet reached the construction phase, a number of Whitefish business people have submitted letters to the First Nation stating an interest in leasing portions of the park. The park will be opened to the general public.
"Diversification is something we want to bring to the First Nation," Petahtegoose says. "That may mean encouraging partnerships with companies. If we were able to put in a call centre, for instance, that would create a lot of jobs."
Whitefish Lake First Nation views the multi-use business park as a long-term solution for job creation and economic growth, she adds.
"This initiative is to create employment and encourage private business and entrepreneurship in our First Nation. We envision this will create jobs, because any new ventures will require employees. Even if a business only requires one person, that is still economic development and that is what we are encouraging and supporting."
The project, which is being funded by the First Nation, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and FedNor, has been in the works for a number of years.
The First Nation became proactive in their focus to create employment opportunities about five years ago when an economic development strategy was created. A consultant was hired to prepare a study which identified areas in which economic development could be fostered on the First Nation.