Year-end is a time of reflection – a time to look back on the year’s challenges and highlights, and a time to look towards the year to come.
A little over two years ago, a Board of Directors was created, who with the guidance of Chief and Council started us on a journey to build an economic engine for our community. We have a shared vision to set this community on a path to be self-sufficient and entrepreneurial—to create jobs and encourage young people to get more education, come home and make a living here.
I’m very pleased to share that KEDC is leading the way in creating viable businesses in tourism, fisheries, forestry, transportation, construction and service-based businesses in Port Hardy. We’ve completely renovated not one, but two hotels. We’ve grown our own shellfish. And so much more which you will read about in this 2016 year in review about KEDC.
This year, we also realized that extremely fast growing businesses come with steep learning curves. We have had significant challenges presented to us, and obstacles that we are still currently battling through. We are grateful KEDC can rely on the leadership and membership of the Gwa’sala ‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations.
I look forward to what the KEDC teams will achieve in 2017.
CEO of KEDC
The North Island is increasingly becoming a destination for adventurers and travelers. Kwa’lilas Hotel will be a catalyst to take that further, with a pent-up demand for a hotel of this caliber on the North Island. Whatever their travel style may be, it will be exciting to see new waves of tourists visit the area. We are happy to welcome guests to Pier Side Landing and Kwa’lilas Hotel.
Last year, we bought the former Port Hardy Inn and have transformed it inside and out. Despite the delayed opening of Kwa’lilas Hotel, tour companies have booked rooms for 2017 and into 2018. The hotel is a meaningful and permanent way to share our history, culture, art and passion.
Our other hotel project, Pier Side Landing, was up and running for business this past summer. While the opening of Kwa’lilas Hotel was delayed, the staff at Pier Side Landing were happy to welcome many unanticipated guests. We are so proud of our staff for taking on the challenge to make sure our guests enjoyed their stay.
It has been quite a year for k’awat’si Construction Company. Kwa’lilas Hotel is almost complete and we all look forward to its Grand Opening in the New Year. Along with the hotel construction, k’awat’si Construction has also completed several kitchens, decks and exterior renovations in the village. There were three new housing projects completed on the reserve: one single residence, one duplex and one fourplex. We are always happy when our team can give back to the community in a meaningful way.
k’awat’si Tours is the North Island’s First Nations-guided eco tours and aboriginal cultural experiences. This year, we welcomed guests from all over the world, met with international tour companies, and promoted k’awat’si Tours at a number of trade shows. We expanded what was known as Nakwakto Rapids Tours to include a variety of eco tours and cultural experiences – everything from hiking to San Josef Bay to drum making and elder story telling. Next year, we are looking at adding kayak and bike rentals, and possibly more hiking tours. We have tour companies, such as BC Ferries Vacations, that can book our tours for their clients, and we are also developing tour packages with Tofino Bus Services so that North Island guests can arrive here with their adventures already booked and ready to go.
The North Island has fantastic supply of salmon, cod, halibut, and various shellfish, making it a fishing destination for many. Our aquaculture team has been working hard over the past year to grow oysters and scallops, and they have now scaled up the project to commercial operations. At the high rate the shellfish are growing, the production cycle will take less time than other farms down south, making KEDC’s aquaculture venture incredibly competitive for market. With the heightened operations, we are also renovating a float cabin on site to allow full-time employees to be on site, regardless of weather or transportation challenges.
With the abundance of seafood in the area, we were thrilled to launch our Cold Storage Facility this year. We’re in the beginning stages of building our fish processing room, which will allow us to process a wide variety of seafood such as salmon and herring with blast-freezing technology. The new space will also give us additional storage, to accommodate the new aquaculture harvests and catches from fishermen in the area.
We are always happy when an opportunity arises to build skills within the community. This year, KEDC’s forestry branch has partnered with GNN, Strategic, Lions Gate and Lemare to develop a forestry/resources training and mentoring program. The program hires band members to complete field training in a number of areas including timber development, road design and layout. It gives our members the chance to work at a great job and get hands-on training with industry professionals. Once training is over, those interested in continuing have the potential of getting a post-secondary education to get Registered Professional Forester or Registered Forestry Technician designations.
In 2017, we will begin growing the Lands and Resources office, hiring thirteen more workers in forestry, fisheries, shellfish and the office. This is a huge step forward and the team is thrilled to move ahead.
With new business like our Aquaculture projects, k’awat’si Tours, and more demand for water taxis and camp work services, 2016 was a very busy year. We have excellent captains who navigate the local tides and weather patterns to get everyone where they need to go safely. KEDC’s businesses are growing quickly, and with that growth, we are looking forward to an even busier, more productive year in 2017.