Trust, sincerity, good faith – all the initial elements seem to be in place for a successful business partnership as Makwa Development Corp. partnered with Cahill Constructors Ltd. to create Makwa-Cahill.
Cahill is a national multi-discipline construction and manufacturing company headquartered in St. John’s, NL.
Makwa is owned by Chippewa residents of Nawash Unceded First Nation, Scott Lee and Shane Chegano.
Executives from both companies discussed their hopes of breaking into the nuclear manufacturing sector during a presentation at the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) Construction Symposium held in Blue Mountain, Ontario . recently.
“We have already established partnerships with Indigenous communities in Labrador and Newfoundland,” said panelist John Kennedy, Vice President of Operations at Cahill. “It’s about the community part for us. We want to go into local communities. We want to build infrastructure. We want to develop people and be able to go from there with that cornerstone of human resources and skills so that communities continue to grow.
Makwa-Cahill held a grand opening for its manufacturing plant in Owen Sound, Ontario. in October. The new facility will provide services to Bruce Power and other energy companies while providing training opportunities for trades such as millwrights, welders and sheet metal workers.
The 26,000 square foot manufacturing facility is now operational and expects to employ over 50 workers per shift. Support for skills training will come from the Aboriginal Workforce Development Circle (ALFDC), a federal not-for-profit corporation.
Lee explained after the OGCA session that the partnership with Cahill was still in its early stages. He said that besides the first contract with Bruce Power, Makwa-Cahill has a lot of irons in the fire, and Makwa Development Corp. is working on several other projects, including a water distribution system.
But the partners are prepared to be patient as word of training and entrepreneurship opportunities spreads among Chippewa people from Nawash Unceded First Nation and Saugeen First Nation, many of whom live off-reserve.
Lee talks about the benefits accrued over seven generations, a traditional Indigenous period, as members recognize opportunities and migrate to their communities.
“We always tell our potential partners, ‘there aren’t a thousand people in our community waiting to be taken off the shelf’, and that’s because they’re already hard at work. That’s why this generational piece comes into play and to bring young people in, exposing them to this opportunity,” Lee said.
“In the community, just because of the exposure we’ve gotten from it, I’ve had other people who really have no interest in being a journeyman, but in being an entrepreneur they say, ‘I’ have an idea. What do you think?'”
Lee, Kennedy and his colleague Michael Benham, vice president of Cahill, stressed the need to develop a strong relationship of trust between non-Indigenous companies and Indigenous partners, because too many construction companies seek to “check a box” to prove they have consulted local First Nations or hired trades people who are not qualified.
The term used is “rent a feather”.
“It’s a lack of sincerity,” Lee said. “Each community knows him, check the box to say, ‘Do you have an indigenous partner?’
“Where is the control of the experiment? Is there really a business? Is there really an office? Is there any sort of meaningful or organized organization or partnership? »
Cahill showed he had a value proposition to offer the community and that the company would be engaged in the community, Lee said.
Early discussions focused on their commitments to the community, even before they embarked on the business proposal.
“It was the core values of what we believed in, not just for Indigenous communities, but for local communities that fall within our traditional territory, that we wanted to create the opportunity for sustainable and meaningful careers for people,” Lee mentioned.
Benham said Cahill aims to develop many partnerships and create a center of excellence that drives economic development in the region, rhyming with Trans-Canada Energy, Bruce Power, Georgian College, several building trades unions and support of the ALFDC.
The plan is to “create a nut soup approach for certain skill sets in trades but also in the back office,” Benham said. “If that sounds like charity, that’s something that needs to be said very loudly, there’s nothing charitable about what we do.
“It’s a good business approach. This is what will make it durable.
Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.