Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Economic Development Corporation (GNEDC) has won the annual Indigenous Business Award (IBA) of community-owned business of the year for two or more entities, the BC Achievement Foundation announced, on Oct. 25.
“[We’re] incredibly humbled to be recognized by such a prestigious award and organization,” Blair Mirau, chief executive officer at Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society, told The Northern View.
In the 13th annual IBA awards, eight Indigenous businesses, entrepreneurs, partnership entities and community-owned enterprises will be recognized from across B.C. The winners will be celebrated in a series of digital campaigns and films honouring their achievements, the BC Achievement Foundation stated.
“The Indigenous enterprises being recognized with an Indigenous Business Award provide new opportunities and stronger relationships, and help make all of our communities more resilient, inclusive and prosperous,” Anne Giardini, foundation chair, said.
The GNEDC operates multiple businesses including a garden centre, floral studio, Bob’s on the Rocks, convenience store and has plans to open a cafe and a commercial salmon smokehouse. They employe 32 people. It is a subsidiary of Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society (GSN).
“What I’m really most proud of is when you look at the genetic makeup of our staff, over 50 per cent of our staff are indigenous, another almost two-thirds are under the age of 35, and two-thirds are female,” Mirau said.
The award recipients were chosen by a jury panel made of IBA members.
“It seemed … the main rationale that they wanted to give us the award is because of what we’ve been able to accomplish throughout the pandemic. That’s something that we are incredibly proud of,” Mirau said.
Over the pandemic, GNEDC bought two new businesses: a small gas station in Port Edward and Bob’s on the Rocks in Prince Rupert.
On the surface, those two business models shouldn’t have worked throughout COVID-19, with people choosing to travel less and restrictions imposed on restaurants, Mirau said.
“It’s counter-intuitive that we’d actually be successful through the pandemic, but that’s actually, I think, one of the reasons that the jury has chosen us,” Mirau said.
The Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society is a non-profit organization based in Prince Rupert, with a membership of more than 1,600. It fosters Nisga’a language and culture programs for its membership living in Prince Rupert and Port Edward areas.
The IBA program was founded in 2008 to honour and celebrate business excellence. It now has more than 200 businesses within its alumni.
BC Achievement presents the program in partnership with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
Norman Galimski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View