A First Nations Leader in Business Development

By Anna Guy

The day we spoke with Glen Pratt, CEO of George Gordon Development Ltd., an innovative and new hands-on learning program for CSA-accredited solar PV design and installation certification was underway at the George Gordon Business Centre.

As an Indigenous-focused solar panel training program, a pilot project run by Regina-based Mo’Solar will run through the George Gordon Urban Office, training 10 George Gordon First Nation band members and two non-members.

This is part of an overall boost to Saskatchewan First Nations’ solar energy projects that George Gordon is the middle of. In May, 2019, SaskPower and First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) have signed a First Nations Opportunity Agreement setting out conditions for developing 20 megawatts (MW) of new utility‐scale solar generation projects. The agreement is estimated to be worth $85 million over the course of 20 years.

“The signing of this agreement adds to what is already an important partnership between FNPA and SaskPower. Both are committed to generating sustainable, renewable energy resources to provide Saskatchewan with power,” said the Honourable Warren Kaeding, Minister of Government Relations, on behalf of the Honourable Dustin Duncan, Minister Responsible for SaskPower.

“FNPA is proud of the planning, time and resources committed by George Gordon and Starblanket Cree Nation advancing towards building their 10 MW solar farm,” said FNPA CEO Guy Lonechild.

George Gordon First Nation

The George Gordon First Nation is a community of close to 4,000 people located 120 km north of Regina, Sask. Since the 1970s, the George Gordon First Nation has provided vital partnerships with local companies, starting out with prefab house construction. In 2011, the First Nation formalized its official economic arm called George Gordon Developments Limited (GGDL).

The GGDL has already become a regional First Nation leader in business development.
Through its partnerships, GGDL has assembled the capacity and capability to successfully put forward high quality bids on any major projects relating to resource development with world-class North American companies. As a 100 per cent Gordon George First Nation entity,

GGDL firmly believes that diversity is the key to success.

“Our business arm was created to begin to develop a strategy on how to create more opportunities, more business, more jobs, and more partnerships,” says Pratt. “We have been operating for a number of years and were formalized in 2011, when we worked with (mining giant) BHP on one of the largest mining camps in Saskatchewan.”
Traditional values, leading business practices

“Our mission is to create wealth and advance our self-determination and capacity on behalf of our community through business creation and innovative economic ventures that integrates traditional values with leading business practices,” says Pratt. “To that end, our four guiding principles are Accountability; Transparency; Honesty; and Building quality corporate partnerships.”

In short, GGDL seeks to create continued business partners while creating opportunities for its own people—something that was happening as we spoke. “Though organizational development, we make sure we develop the right policies, procedures, capacity and retain high performing work forces in our community,” says Pratt.

The heart of the GGDL strategy is its uniquely advantageous location in the middle of the potash, wind, sun, and agricultural belts. “What are we going to do as a First Nation to make better use of our land, resources, young people and partners, so on?” asks Pratt.

GGDL will move beyond the traditional Saskatchewan crops (canola, barley, flax) and look to hemp and fruit crops, and are also involved in greenhouse technology to extend the growing season. GGDL’s renewable energy vision also takes full advantage of being in one of the sunniest places in the Canada.
Property Developments is the third pillar of GGDL. “We have urban development lands as key priority including commercial and residential opportunities,” says Pratt. GGFN currently has 577 acres in southeast Regina, “which is a great opportunity to have commercial office space on and off reserve,” says Pratt, adding GGDL is also looking to expand to Western Canada and expand partnerships with other First Nation’s business development corporations to move at the speed of business.

“We also want to train and employ our people,” says Pratt. “We now ask more from our partnerships than we have in the past, because we bring value and opportunities with us, and we want to be treated like a valuable partner who share in the benefits of our work.”

It is time for GGDL to leverage its experience. “GGDL is seen as established company that knows what we do, and has partners that can vouch for us,” says Pratt. With years of experience and partnerships with Canada’s biggest companies—Atco, BHP, Johnson Controls, and MTS Canada, to names few, GGDL is positioned to go after more opportunities. Says Pratt, “Cities are now seeing the importance of including First Nations in the economy.”