A small First Nations company has been given a second multi-million dollar contract for work in the Callaghan Valley, after coming in under budget and ahead of schedule last year.
This time the work has increased in size over the first contract, which spells good news for the Mount Currie band and the Lil’wat Nation.
"With doubling the scope of work we’re also going to be doubling the opportunities for First Nations within the Callaghan project," said Steve Miles, a partner in Resource Business Ventures, the company which secured the deal.
The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games would not release the dollar figures associated with the contract, which involves more site preparation, rock excavation and earth work in the Callaghan Valley.
John Eastman, VANOC’s director, venue development, explained why the company, which is 51 per cent owned by the Mount Currie band, got the contract.
It dates back to the Shared Legacies Agreement signed by the four host nations and VANOC, he said.
"As part of that initiative we looked at where we could best use First Nations contractors and if there were opportunities there for using them and the particular experiences and skills they had," said Eastman.
"It started last year when they were awarded a contract for clearing and site preparation at the Nordic centre. This was a good experience for both parties. They worked very well, we got good prices, all the work which was planned was done. And this year we wanted to extend that in order to continue to meet our commitments for involving First Nations in the Olympics, and they also wanted to participate further at this particular venue."
As such, the contract was not put out for open tender but it was a competitive bid at fair market prices said Eastman.
He explained that the Callaghan site, home of the Nordic events for the 2010 Games, is split almost in half by Madely Creek. The south side of the land was bid on competitively. A contractor has been selected and VANOC is now in the process of finalizing that contract.
RBV gave VANOC prices for excavation work on the north side of the site, which is the smaller site by half.
"Although we have this commitment to provide commercial opportunities (for First Nations), it still has to be at market rates," said Eastman. "It’s not something that we can just give them at any price. So what we’re able to do through this process was then compare their rates and prices for similar work, which had just been bid competitively for the south side work.
"Certainly they performed very well last year so there was no resistance on our part. In fact we went out of our way to get them back again this year."
RBV is a partnership between CRB Logging and Creekside Resources Incorporated, the resource management group for the Mount Currie band.
Miles said he is proud RBV is holding its own in Olympic development.
"VANOC haven’t given us anything for free here just because there’s aboriginal content in it," he added. "We’ve proven through working in an off-reserve partnership we can be as competitive as anybody else. We have to be competitive or they wouldn’t be awarding this to us."
Lyle Leo, lead negotiator for Lil’wat Nation, said one of the things they have been stressing to VANOC is delivering a sustainable Games and ensuring the local economy prospers beyond 2010 by using local contractors and local knowledge.
RBV’s latest contract is for roughly 50,000 man hours of work and 45 workers will be on site this summer. Some will be getting valuable training there.
Leo said Lil’wat Nation members will fill the jobs first. If they can’t find enough employees then they will then open the spots to other First Nations.
In addition to creating employment opportunities, however, the company is also getting involved in buying heavy machinery equipment.
"It’s allowing the band to build equity in equipment and at the same time capacity build and give experience to local operators," said Miles.
RBV also manages the forestry arm of the Mount Currie band and is in the process of harvesting timber and creating employment opportunities within the forestry sector as well.
While the Lil’wat Nation, of which the Mount Currie band is a part, is pursuing excavation work in the Callaghan, Squamish Nation has almost finalized a contract management agreement for managing both the tendering and construction of all the buildings at the Nordic site, which also satisfies the Shared Legacies Agreement.
Newhaven, the Squamish Nation construction company, will also be on site this summer, alongside RBV and other contractors as work ramps up in the Callaghan to ready the venue for test events by 2009.