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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/3/2018 (1193 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Long Plain First Nation plans to start construction on two hotels on urban reserves in Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie this summer, thanks to federal legislation that gives First Nations access to capital markets.

Long Plain recently became the 21st Manitoba First Nation to receive certification from the Vancouver-based First Nations Financial Management Board. That’s the second-highest total of First Nations to be certified in a province in the country.

Long Plain Chief Dennis Meeches says the FMB certification gives the projects a green light.

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Long Plain Chief Dennis Meeches says the FMB certification gives the projects a green light.

Certification allows First Nations to access capital market financing and borrow at preferential interest rates similar to those paid by municipalities and other levels of government.

A First Nation must demonstrate sound financial management for five years to obtain certification, following standards set out by the board, which Long Plain has done.

Sod-turning should begin within a few months for both hotels — one on Madison Street near Polo Park that will also be an office complex and the other along the Trans-Canada Highway in Portage, Chief Dennis Meeches of Long Plain said. The two buildings are expected to cost about $20 million combined. The hotel-commercial building on Madison will be about 80,000 square feet and include conference facilities and opportunities for a restaurant.

“We tried to build a hotel quite a few years back and had some challenges on that. Now, with this certification, that project gets the green light,” Meeches said.

Long Plain also plans to build a truck stop along the Trans-Canada Highway in Portage.

Long Plain is a unique First Nation in that it has urban reserves in Portage and Winnipeg. The land is part of a fulfilment of Canada’s outstanding treaty land entitlement to the First Nation.

Businesses on those reserves, operated by the band’s Arrowhead Corp., earn in the range of $7 million per year, said Arrowhead CEO Tim Daniels. Arrowhead, which includes two gas bars and a gaming centre, employs 160 people, he said.

The board was created by the federal First Nation Fiscal Management Act passed by an all-party agreement in 2006. However, the First Nation Finance Authority (FNFA) only started lending out money in 2014.

Manitoba First Nations have done well so far, receiving close to $85 million in loans. That’s out of about $500 million loaned out to First Nations across the country by FNFA.

“For the first time in First Nation history in Canada, First Nations have the same opportunity as other levels of government to borrow capital. They never had it before,” said Ernie Daniels, president of Kelowna, B.C.,-based FNFA.

Banks have their commercial operations that serve consumers, but also have a market side and the FNFA operates on the market side. “The banks go and sell our debenture for us to long-term investors like insurance companies and mutual funds,” Daniels said.

The FNFA has an investment grade rating from Moody’s and S&P bond raters. Some other Manitoba First Nations certified include Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Black River, Fisher River, Ste. Theresa Point, and Ebb and Flow.

Long Plain was on the brink of going into receivership in 2013. Since then, it has put its finances in order and has won numerous awards for its economic development, including the 2017 Visionary Indigenous Business Excellence Award from the University of Manitoba Asper School of Business.

Long Plain has also built four homes on its urban reserve in Portage that will soon be made available for private ownership. Employees of Arrowhead can apply to rent the homes for five years, after which they will have the option to buy and keeping any principal paid down. The homes are limited to Arrowhead employees, so the corporation can ensure payment by deducting rent from the renter’s paycheque.

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