Tim Bell never imagined he’d be signing partnership agreements because of a playground, nor that the agreements would be with one of the largest lumber companies in the world and a small First Nation community in the Shuswap.
“I’ve learned in my career to always expect the unexpected,” said Bell, Arrow’s vice-president of trucking operations. “But this is probably the first time I’ve gone into a four-way partnership to deliver on a project without any agreement in place.”
The new leadership in the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band had been working to reopen relationships with industry partners, specifically to help the band realize the benefits of its provincial forest licence.
“We were looking for companies whose approach to partnerships extends beyond what we see in typical resource-development agreements,” said band economic-development advisor Leonard Jackson of his BCT Projects company. “We asked several forestry companies to pitch concepts for working together.”
Enter Brad Bennett, Interfor’s woodlands manager. Within a couple of conversations, Bennett and Jackson brought Bell into the discussion.
“Interfor had been attempting to engage with the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band for a long time with little success, but we knew the current chief and council were looking for companies with whom to partner on their forestry project,” Bennett said. “Having worked with Arrow on other projects, and knowing the company’s commitment to Aboriginal engagement, we knew we wanted Arrow in the room with us from the start.”
When Interfor, Arrow and the band sat down for the first time, the goal was getting to know one another. Specific business was off the table and, instead, initial discussions focused on whether the people in the room felt there was a cultural fit. Little Shuswap Lake Coun. Dale Tomma recalls talking to Bell, Bennett and Jackson about the importance the band’s leadership places on progressive development.
“As leaders, one of our jobs is to get out into other communities to look at what they are doing to spur economic development,” Tomma said. “I happened to mention a place I’d visited where the mill had recently built a recreation facility. This, in a small community where people were already benefiting from the mill economically through employment. What I saw there was how the community now came together socially in the beautiful space the company had created.”
Bell said they had been discussing the importance of companies recognizing lasting relationships are not just built on revenue sharing.
“We knew Dale wasn’t telling us that story because she wanted us to build a playground, even though we know there isn’t one in the community and we know that kids bike down a busy, dangerous highway to Chase to play,” Bell said.
Bell, Bennett and Jackson walked out of the meeting and knew they were building a playground anyway, a playground that opened on June 14.
“We’ve partnered with several First Nations communities on different projects, all unique and all mutually beneficial,” Bell said. “What makes this one special is that we all went into those initial discussions without a defined project or business goal in mind. And, while the immediate outcome is this playground — which isn’t even a part of the formal partnership agreements we’re working on — it’s representative of how we want to work together on what we hope will become long-term business relationships.”
The details of the resource-development partnerships are still being finalized. The parties are working towards revenue and employment agreements that will see the band sell timber volumes to Interfor. Arrow and Interfor will have an agreement to haul timber, not only from band land to the Adams Lake Mill, but also on other forestry projects. And they’ll do this in logging trucks they put on the road with the band through a joint-venture partnership.
-Kamloops This Week