, but for the Stz’uminus First Nation the spring of 2016 may well be remembered as much for the economic resurgence it has signaled as for the seasonal transformations of the land and water.
On March 7, the SFN’s Coast Salish Development Corporation was handed the Corporate Social Responsibility Award by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce.
Then, on March 11 CSDC’s Chief Executive Officer Ray Gautier said work will begin this spring installing services for the main commercial component of the Oyster Bay Development at Oyster Sto’lo Road and the Trans Canada Highway. Construction will also begin on an Esso gas station and Tim Horton’s coffee shop on the northwest corner of the intersection.
At full build out the Oyster Bay development is projected to have a financial institution (the Ladysmith & District Credit Union is scheduled to be on the site by the end of the year); a 21,500 sq. ft. grocery store, 77 single family homes, two apartment blocks, 35 two-story townhouses and a resort hotel.
Add to that 80 to 100 assisted living units on the west side of Highway 1, plus 55 patio homes and the scale of the Oyster Bay Development begins to emerge.
Then there’s the CSDC’s partnership in the 610 unit Holland Creek Development, which is in the final stages of development approval with the Town of Ladysmith, and the Stz’uminus interest in future waterfront and marina development in Ladysmith Harbour.
Chief John Elliott said his community is looking for opportunities to grow its commercial and economic interests and play a major role in the economy of its traditional territory.
“We really want to be self reliant and self sufficient. We really got that mandate from the community,” he said.
It’s taken six years and longer to build momentum, but Elliott and Gautier both believe the CSDC is on track and will soon be an economic driver in the Ladysmith area. Its interests include residential and commercial development, forestry, aquiculture, mining, and petroleum and retail services.
Elliott believes the CSDC’s potential is beyond what people have imagined. “I think once the growth starts here, it is going to take off,” he said. “I think it’s going to be even bigger than we think it’s going to be.”
That will bring benefits to everyone. “I hear the concerns about us growing, but we have not only the opportunity, but the right to create growth for our community,” Elliott said.
He added that everyone in the Ladysmith region stands to benefit along with the Stz’uminus, and that the SFN is working closely with Ladysmith over the long haul. “We’re definitely going to sit at the same table and talk about growth,” Elliott said.
Included in that conversation will be how to manage growth with a ‘triple bottom line’ in mind. Projects have to be planned for sustainability, social responsibility and profit. “All of the stuff we’re doing in Holland Creek and in this area is very respectful of the environment,” Gautier said.
“Our business is different because of who we are as a people,” Elliott said. “The land is important to us, it’s a value to us. It’s something we’re always mindful of in how we do business.”