It was a cold winter day in 2009 when a crowd gathered to break ground on a new Osoyoos Indian Band project to create a business park near Oliver.
“It was so cold,” said OIB elder Modesta Betteron. “If you dropped a glass of water it would be hard before it hit the ground.”
Two years later, Betteron was standing on the same ground in front of a large crowd of band members, politicians and business leaders. This however, was a considerably warmer day, as she offered a welcome prayer and blessing for the Senkulmen Business Park, explaining that the name means a place to work and create.
The park represents a major step forward for the OIB, which already has a high reputation for its successful business and economic plans.
“The state-of-the-art business park will help diversify the local economy by attracting more commercial, light industrial and institutional businesses to Oliver,” said OIB Chief Clarence Louie. The property is currently in the first phase of its 10-year development plan and will eventually accommodate up to 40 business tenants and create upwards of 1,000 new manufacturing and supporting jobs in the region, based on an economic analysis prepared for the project.
“The best social program is a job. And that is what is happening here,” said Senator Gerry St. Germain, who was on hand for the ribbon cutting.
“We want to be part of the economy, plain and simple,” said Louie. “We have been left out of the economy.”
The entrance to the business park, about five minutes north of Oliver on Hwy. 97, is marked by a massive sculpture of a First Nations man and woman, designed by Louie. The colours — red, white, black and yellow — of the hoops in the globe they hold aloft, he explained, represent all the races of man and the cooperative and inclusive nature of the new business park.
“The Osoyoos Indian Band is committed to building projects that bring prosperity and employment to our people and hence to the larger Okanagan region,” said Louie. “The Senkulmen Business Park represents our substantial efforts, coupled with the support of the federal government, to build a vibrant and diversified economy.”
Senkulmen is a light industrial/commercial park that integrates natural landscaping, water conservation and energy conservation into the park design. Approximately 96 of the site’s 207 acres have been set aside as an ecological zone. The business park will also contain many innovative features such as a proposed geothermal heating plant, a green sanitary system, fibre-optic communications, environmentally friendly landscaping and sustainable architectural design guidelines.
With the site preparation and servicing work now complete, the OIB is ready to take Senkulmen to market.
“Our official opening today marks the kickoff of an aggressive sales effort. We are working with international commercial real estate firms Cushman Wakefield and Royal LePage to ensure Senkulmen becomes the leading business destination in the Okanagan,” said Louie.
The business park already has its first tenant, a wine distribution centre being built and operated by the Osoyoos Indian Band in a joint venture with Bronquest Properties Ltd.
Ready for occupancy in mid-2012, it will feature 10,000 square feet of climate-controlled multi-winery warehousing space in the heart of the Okanagan’s wine industry.