Ensuring Business Success Leads to Tangible Benefits for Communities
In 2009, Deh Tai and Black Diamond Group (BDG) entered an equity-based agreement known as Black Diamond Dene Joint Venture.
As the oil and gas industry grew in the Horn River Basin, BDG was looking for support services. Understanding that they were working within FNFN traditional territory, BDG engaged FNFN on a joint venture to operate an oil and gas camp within the territory. The partnership marked a turning point for the Nation who assumed operations of the Horn River Lodge, a 700-person oil and gas camp. FNFN have used the venture as a catalyst to pursue additional opportunities. For example, the partnership has been instrumental in FNFN’s growth in the culinary arts, and FNFN businesses have won largescale catering contracts as a result. Today, FNFN maintain operations of the Horn River Lodge and have grown their business to include four hotels and a hot springs lodge – all of which are generating revenues for the Nation.
The partners attribute the success of the partnership to shared values regarding environmental stewardship and community. BDG’s environmental values aligned with the Nation’s, which set a positive tone early in the partnership. BDG also made a point of working directly with the community. In 2010, they hosted a leadership inspiration day and hockey game with Calgary Flames alumni — an event that raised $60,000 to put towards a new FNFN community centre.
Over the course of their relationship, both sides have overcome challenges – though most have been minor and related to doing business in a new environment. FNFN learned of the financial costs of doing business at a large scale. BDG learned that partnering with a First Nation can mean adjusting to a different pace.
This partnership is one example of how First Nations in B.C. are open to doing business with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations. The partners are adamant that engaging Indigenous communities makes good business sense and should not be done to simply check a box.