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First Nation Investments Benefit Local Economy

Petroglyph Development Group (PDG), a wholly owned corporation of the Snuneymuxw First Nation (SFN), is helping to spur the Nanaimo economy with investments in key projects that have been long on the drawing board for this gateway community.

After plans spanning more than a decade to open a hotel next to the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, the recently opened Courtyard by Marriott Nanaimo, with investment from PDG, is helping grow tourism and business sectors for the Snuneymuxw Nation and the City of Nanaimo. The 172-room hotel is built with low-carbon materials that reduce construction waste and impacts on the climate.

PDG’s recent purchase of Sealand Market, adjacent the Departure Bay ferry terminal, is another example of their vision for Nanaimo. This waterfront property has been a wallowing, missed opportunity for decades and is now being revitalized with destination appeal.

SFN’s support helped secure the Hullo foot passenger ferry service, downtown-to-downtown, connecting Nanaimo and Vancouver in just 70 minutes. While BC Ferries continues to support travellers and Island residents, Hullo ferries alleviates some of the strain of the growing numbers of ferry users.

PDG is also managing Saysutchun (Newcastle Island), a 900-acre provincial marine park that forms part of Nanaimo’s protected harbour, serving residents and tourists there to enjoy the marine park and Snuneymuxw history.

Instead of relying solely on economic return to measure the success of their investments, PDG is including the well-being of the environment and society as metrics to measure success. Local investments in the local economy are especially important because corporate earnings remain circulating in the community. PDG and SFN are showing that 21st century investments, conscious of the society and environment, can benefit the community well beyond the business transactions themselves.

It is clear that, on a global scale, environmental and social issues have been exposed as critical threats to community and economic stability. Recognizing the need for a sustainable approach, provincial economic decisions are now informed by a new system of values. The economic plan for British Columbia is guided by environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles. Similarly, the City of Nanaimo is the first city in North America to adopt the principles of Doughnut Economics, joining others such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia in recognizing the need for balance.

A reconciliation agreement with the Province of British Columbia was the start of SFN investments in the Nanaimo economy. In 2014, phase one of the reconciliation agreement led to the transferral of privately managed forestry lands to SFN. Initially, to manage the land, SFN created Petroglyph Development Group (PDG) that has now diversified its investment portfolio..

Phase two of the reconciliation agreement will see the transfer of 3000 hectares of land adjacent to the Vancouver Island University campus—earmarked for further economic development plans. SFN seeks to leverage the existing assets of Nanaimo to increase local and visitor traffic—ultimately leading to a more diverse and prosperous Nanaimo. Investments like these show confidence in Nanaimo’s economy and help realise potential benefitting the Nation and the City.

“It’s nice to be part of that change for Nanaimo, and bringing the investment dollars required to bring important projects to life. It’s a real and positive thing for Nanaimo and for the Snuneymuxw First Nation,” says Ian Simpson, CEO of PDG.


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