The financial impact can help the reserve's youth, who aspire to higher education.
There was a perception on We Wai Kai First Nation that only First Nations businesses could build on reserve land despite there being a BC Hydro property. There’d been no inquiries about leasing the land for commercial development, and this was something the community wanted to change.
To get the ball rolling, leaders felt they just needed one tenant. When Finning, a construction equipment dealer that had been in its previous location for 35 years, wanted to move onto We Wai Kai First Nation, the community saw it as a tremendous opportunity. Finning needed a build-to-suit location (a type of real estate transaction in which a property owner or developer will construct a building for sale or lease that will be built to the buyer’s or tenant’s specifications) to replace its aging building. Finning secured financing through RBC for the build.
The start of construction was the beginning of a new chapter for We Wai Kai First Nation. “We started putting the building up and our phone was ringing off the hook with people who wanted to lease property. I think it really helped us to open up that economic development area that was pretty much vacant for 13 years,” says Chief Ronnie Chickite.
“It felt like we were stuck in a rut when nobody came to lease off us and we had all this available cleared land. Finning and RBC helped set us up for the future, to make more clients aware that we are open for business.”
Economic development dollars can help build not only commercial facilities but also the future of the community’s youth, who aspire to higher education. “A lot of [higher education funding] is self-funded, from our own source of revenue. Having more and more businesses coming in, creating revenue, once everything’s paid off, it really helps to put our students through post-secondary [education],” explains Chickite.
More revenue means more opportunity to fund those educational pursuits, and financing the build-to-suit location was one step in the journey toward the community’s future plans.
“If you build it, they will come” turned out to be true for We Wai Kai First Nation, and the community’s future looks promising.