May 14, 2012
Aboriginal-owned engineering firm launches in B.C.
A new Aboriginal company called Embark Engineering was formed recently in Prince Rupert, B.C. by the Lax Kw'alaams Band and Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd. (KWL) consulting engineers.
Embark Engineering will pursue contracts in engineering services, including infrastructure planning, design and construction, project administration and resource management.
Prospective clients for the company are expected to come from government, industry, the Lax Kw’alaams Band and other First Nations.
The head office of Embark Engineering will be located in the Lax Kw’alaams band office, 35 kilometres north of Prince Rupert.
The operational office will be in the KWL head office in Burnaby.
Lax Kw’alaams has 51 percent ownership of Embark Engineering and KWL owns the remaining 49 percent.
The company will be governed by a management board consisting of five people: two members from the Lax Kw’alaams Band, two from KWL and one agreed upon by both parties.
Chief Garry Reece of the Lax Kw’alaams and Embark Engineering’s chairman of the board, said the new company wants to act as a bridge between First Nations and industry.
“We want to ensure the projects we work on attain the highest possible level of environmental standards, while respecting the values of the communities in which we operate,” Reece said.
He expects that the band will benefit from the economic development, as well as training and employment as engineers, technologists and field staff.
To this end, Embark plans to introduce an academic program and scholarships that will help band members start their careers.
“Many band members have already expressed interest in the new company,” Reece said.
Lax Kw’alaams is the largest band on the north coast of B.C., Reece said.
More than 3,500 members make up the bank and two-thirds live off-reserve.
The band’s corporate arm oversees 10 businesses.
They include a fishing plant, which will seasonally employ 100 band members, and Coast Tsimshian Resources LP, a $100 million company with two forest tenures in northwestern B.C. and a total allowable annual cut of more than 550,000 cubic metres.
KWL will provide management and engineering staff to the new company.
Frank Belfry, general manager of Embark Engineering and past president of KWL, said that, as Embark grows, it will hire more employees.
“We have a number of irons in the fire now;” he said.
“We expect to sign some contracts soon.”
KWL has had a 30-year working relationship with the Lax Kw’alaams Band.
“We’ve worked together building community infrastructure in Lax Kw’alaams,” Belfry said.
“The formation of Embark Engineering is a natural evolution of this relationship.”
The KWL-Lax Kw’alaams partnership represents a new way of working with First Nations.
“First Nations now are less reliant on Indian Affairs,” Belfry said.
“In its place there are many mutually beneficial agreements between First Nations and the private sector.”
KWL provides water engineering services for water supply and treatment, waste water collection and treatment, resource recovery, creek and river system management and hydrology.
Energy-related projects include the Kitasoo small hydro generation project at the village of Klemtu, a small community about 60 km north of Bella Bella that is cut off from the BC Hydro power grid, the Whistler Athletes’ Village low-temperature district energy-sharing system and the conversion of the district energy system on UBC’s Vancouver campus from an aging central steam system to a high-efficiency hot water heating system.
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