The Osoyoos Indian Band made some major gains in 2013, not only with the opening of a new business park and being chosen as the site for the new provincial prison, but also in enhancing their long term financial stability.
The First Nations Financial Management Board recently certified the South Okanagan community, making it able to access more affordable, longer-term financing to support further community economic and social development.
The OIB secured a $5.8 million loan from First Nations Finance Authority on Nov. 30 to refinance existing debt. Lower interest rates will result in potential savings of approximately $144,000 a year and a more financially stable environment to work with investors and on projects within the OIB community over a longer period of time.
“I have long been a supporter of First Nations financial institutions and more equitable access to capital for reserves. We need this to be able to pursue investment like other communities in Canada,” said Chief Clarence Louie, who is also CEO of the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation and chair of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board.
The band is already one of the most successful in the country, with the OIB Development corporation owning and managing nine businesses, including Nk’Mip Cellars, the first aboriginal winery in North America, and most recently the Senkulmen Business Park near Oliver.
The band’s prosperity and success is the result of a long history of economic planning, dating back to the ‘60s, their first leasing agreement for the Cherryville golf course. It’s a record of success that has not only created economic and social growth for the OIB, but has had a positive effect throughout the South Okanagan.
“Aboriginal economic development must become an ongoing national priority for aboriginal people to become full participants in the development and strengthening of the Canadian economy,” said Louie, when he announced the NAEDB’s first report earlier this year, which showed that while there was measurable progress toward improving economic outcomes in areas such as employment and income for aboriginal communities, significant gaps still remain.
Louie has long been an advocate of self reliance and First Nations being full participants in the economy.
“Becoming certified by the First Nations Financial Management Board illustrates Osoyoos’ commitment to strengthening their financial management systems and putting policies and procedures in place gives all stakeholders confidence,” said FNFMB executive chair Harold Calla.
Using the services offered through the FNFMB and FNFA, OIB can advance the community’s social and economic development plans more quickly, which in turn supports their goal of self-reliance.
“I am an advocate of what the FNFMB Certification brings to First Nation Communities in Canada. It gives First Nations the ability to access financing like any other government in Canada,” said Brian Titus, chief operating officer of the OIBDC.
“It has allowed us to use these funds for refinancing existing debt, build infrastructure, and develop new business relationships and create jobs. This is a new era in First Nation financing.”