As the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) receives another award, Chief Jonathan Kruger is filled with pride and hope for the future, including talks of relocating the casino to band land.
The PIB received the Economic Developer of the Year award from the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO) during the 22nd Annual National Conference in Toronto from Oct. 26-29.
“We’re very honoured to receive this award. It really gives us a huge boost of confidence in knowing that we’re going in the right direction,” Kruger said. “It really ensures we’re on the right path and headed the right way.”
The PIB was one of two finalists among First Nations communities across Canada. The 633 First Nations communities voted on the finalists and the PIB emerged as the Economic Developer of the Year.
The win comes off the heels of another award for the PIB from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business in May.
“We’re receiving multiple awards for doing economic development, it has been really incredible, it’s such an incredible feeling. I’m so proud of our community, giving us a mandate to move forward so we can become more self-sustainable,” Kruger said. “I can’t say enough about our community, I’m so proud of the PIB, and so proud of the hard workers in our community.”
He noted the work by the Penticton Indian Band Development Corporation and PIB staff has made the band a role model for other communities.
“It’s definitely an honour to be a healthy community that other communities aspire to be,” Kruger said. “It shows me our community is strong and we’re getting healthier and healthier every year, becoming more proactive and we’re just going in a really good direction.”
He also attributed the efforts of local youth, including those who work at Coyote Cruises where the two managers are 19 and 21 years old, and the only older employees are the bus drivers. Westhills Aggregates is another success story for the PIB, Kruger said, with the construction and gravel service transitioning from barely surviving with four employees to now having 25 employees and breaking records. Westhills made a gross profit of $6 million this year, becoming the largest trucking company in Penticton.
“We went from a Westhills Aggregates company with two trucks to multiple trucks and rock trucks, excavators, gravel crushers,” Kruger said. “I’m proud of that.”
The Skaha Hills development is another highlight for the band, and Kruger believes continuing to making environmentally conscious decisions in their developments could make the PIB a leader in the area of green development.
“If we continue down that path we’ll be one of the most environmentally friendly developments in all of Canada. The things we’re doing are very amazing, even the work we’re doing on our own buildings,” Kruger said, noting that the PIB health centre is capitalizing on the use of geothermal energy. “The whole foundation we’re setting up and creating is something that we’re really proud of and is catching the attention of not only First Nations communities, but communities from across Canada.”
Kruger said the PIB is also open to housing a casino on the land, as the end of the Lakeside Casino’s lease with Penticton Lakeside Resort is coming up in May of 2017.
“We definitely are (pursuing the casino). We have a beautiful site there and I think a casino would fit right in there perfectly, right across from the bridge,” Kruger said. “I guess there is problems happening in the city, but they are more than welcome to come and work with us. It will still be in the City of Penticton, it’ll just be on the reserve.”