The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business has honoured Membertou Development Corp. with the Aboriginal Economic Development Corp. Award.
© Chris Shannon – Cape Breton Post
Membertou Chief Terry Paul is looking forward to another busy construction season around his First Nation community with the completion of an elementary school and highway interchange, and the start of work on its dual ice pad arena.
[MEMBERTOU, NS] — The Membertou Development Corp. has received a national award recognizing its contribution to aboriginal economic development.
It’s the first time the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business has handed out the Aboriginal Economic Development Corp. Award.
The award is the first of its kind in Canada to honour the achievements of aboriginal economic development corporations.
“I think this is a testament to the hard work of our development team here in Membertou, and the people who live in the community. That’s who really owns the award,” Membertou Chief Terry Paul said in an interview Wednesday.
Membertou will be presented with the award in May at the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business 2014 Gala in Calgary.
Since 1995, Membertou has successfully launched 13 aboriginal economic development initiatives, with the largest being the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre, the Hampton Inn by Hilton Membertou and the Highway 125 interchange.
The highway interchange will give the aboriginal community direct access to the four-lane divided provincial highway for the first time.
Paul said the interchange is expected to be complete this spring, allowing for future retail and commercial development on parcels of land south of the highway purchased by the Membertou Development Corp.
He said there are ongoing discussions to attract retailers to the community.
“There’s no real commitment at this time, and when we do get that commitment we would prefer if they announce it,” Paul said.
And on Churchill Drive, a second strip mall that’s empty at the moment has secured leases for most of the rental space, the chief said.
The First Nation community’s first elementary school will open later this year, likely in September. And construction on a multimillion-dollar dual ice pad arena will begin in May or June.
There are other projects planned for future years, but for now these are the initiatives given priority, he said.
Properties such as the Hampton Inn and the future arena are located outside the reserve’s boundaries and are subject to municipal taxation.
“We pay over $1 million (in taxes) each year,” Paul said. “Many people are not aware of that fact.”
Unlike Cape Breton, which has seen a steady decline in population as a whole, First Nations communities have seen double-digit growth over the last several census periods.
Membertou had 912 members living on the reserve at the time of the 2011 census.
Paul said there are more than 1,400 Membertou band members in all, and that number continues to grow.