Economic activity, fluctuates, but it’s business as usual for the NEDC.

Economic activity, fluctuates, but it’s business as usual for the NEDC.

“Always,” confirmed NEDC assistant manager Caledonia Fred.

And with over 30 years experience helping first nations entrepreneurs, NEDC  keeps close tabs on the changing landscape where economic development opportunities are concerned.

“We tend to see less applicants when the economy is strong, when there are more jobs available,” says Fred, who has a bachelor of commerce in entrepreneurial management, and has been part of the NEDC team for 16 years. 

NEDC, she says, gets over a hundred applications a year, and several hundred enquiries. The number of applications has increased over the years, she adds, “but the dollar value, the size of the projects, has decreased, for NEDC individuals anyways.”

The tribes themselves are another separate set of stats with their projects growing in size.

Of the hundreds of applicants who come though their door, Fred makes the point not all will make the grade.

“Some people apply with the thought that this process is really easy, and that they don’t have to provide much. We go above and beyond to help them with their business plans and guide them through that application process. However some don’t meet the requirements.”

And those entrepreneurs that do go on to get their businesses off the ground, need to be able to “adjust the rudder” when the unexpected happens.

“A fishing lodge had their entire plan laid out to reap the benefits of the booming Alberta/Saskatchewan market, and had to shift gears when the price of oil plummeted and the American dollar was strong. They had to change their target market to the Mid-western States midstream of implementing their business plan.”

As for what industries are hot, she says fishing, retail, transportation (water taxis are popular in many Island communities) and service based businesses such as consultants are very popular.  The number of new construction businesses on the coast have been down over the last few years.

According to Fred, NEDC approved 88 loans worth $3.95M and 51 contributions worth $1.8M towards Aboriginal economic development activity throughout Vancouver Island this fiscal year to date, which is up from last fiscal year.

“People are surprised that little Vancouver Island has so much activity compared to other service providers in B.C., not including the Lower Mainland,” she says adding that, “Vancouver Island has always been a high entrepreneurial activity area compared to some areas of the province… there’s a lot of qualified people and opportunities here, and we see the result of that.”