Rainy Lake Tribal Contracting
Rainy Lake Tribal Contracting is building lucrative partnerships and taking on big projects after only its first year of business. The Fort Francis, Ontario-based contractor was formed in April 2009 as a partnership between Rainy Lake Tribal Development Corp. and local contractor and company General Manager Larry George. The Rainy Lake Tribal Development Corp. is comprised of six of the Rainy River District area First Nations: Couchiching, Rainy River, Naicatchewenin, Seine River, Nigigoon-siminikaaning and Mitaanjigamiing.
Rainy Lake Tribal Contracting has roots in Wayne George Grading, a road construction and forestry contractor that was formed in 1980 by George’s father Wayne. George and his wife Michelle took over the company in 1998. “Between 1998 and 2005, our company grew from three to 45 employees,” George says. “In addition to our road construction and maintenance contracts, we got into wood harvesting in a big way, running a stump to dump operation with production capabilities of 35,000 to 50,000 cords of roundwood annually, dependant on market demands.”
The company divested the majority of its forestry assets following a market downturn in 2006 that forced it to diversify its interests. Through mutual contact Ron Allen, they were introduced to Economic Development Advisor Tony Marinaro.
The Rainy Lake Tribal Development Corp., founded in part by Marinaro and other First Nations members, is dedicated to creating strategic and collaborative business partnerships that capitalize on developing economic opportunities for First Nation members.
These opportunities not only allow for the development of their employment skills and capacity, but also their ability to become self sufficient within their communities and less reliant on the support of government programs and funding. These opportunities are a further stepping stone in the pursuit of independence, Marinaro says.
“It has been an exciting year, because until recently, the First Nation communities in the region had not sustained the opportunities to participate in the local economy,” Marinaro explains.
“Through the establishment of Rainy Lake Tribal Contracting, we have positioned ourselves to be a key player in the mining and construction industry.”
An economic development impact study conducted by the development corporation concluded that the First Nations spend on average $67 million to $72 million in the Rainy River District on an annual basis. “Through these strategic partnerships, the First Nations have an opportunity to retain some of these dollars in their communities as opposed to simply being the consumer,” George explains.
Mining Sector Focus
The firm is involved in several mining projects including the Hammond Reef gold deposit near Atikokan, Ontario; a project that was supported by Brett Resources under the leadership of Bud Dickson, director of Aboriginal and Community Relations.
“Right now, our main focus is in the mining sector. We are building 13.6 miles of road to the mining site owned by Osisko Mining Corp., who acquired the site from former owners Brett Resources earlier this year,” George says. In addition, the company has six diamond drill rigs engaged in exploration and infill drilling on the site as well as other road work, maintenance and pad/trail construction for diamond drills. Other mining projects include exploration and drilling services provided to Q-Gold Resources Inc. in Mine Centre Ontario. In Richardson Township, Ontario, for Rainy River Resources Ltd., where the company has another three drill rigs turning, in addition to road building and other infrastructure development opportunities.
“The mining industry has picked up substantially and we’ve been able to build strategic partnerships and alliances with the mining companies operating within our traditional lands,” Marinaro says.
In addition to the mining related projects, RLTC has recently completed a site development project for the Treaty 3 police station, as well as subdivision development and road and sewer construction for projects in the municipal and residential sectors. The company also produces gravel and aggregates and still maintains its ties to the forestry sector through wood contracts held with Abitibibowater Pulp & Paper, Ainsworth Barwick OSB and local independent sawmill operators.
Rainy Lake Tribal Contracting also holds a joint venture agreement with Atikokan Renewable Fuels to produce feedstock for the company’s pellet mill. “We are in the midst of finalizing wood supply agreements,” George says.
Once agreements are finalized, RLTC will process and grind approximately 10,000 cords of wood per month and manage all other operations associated with wood yard and wood handling at the Atikokan Renewable Fuels facility. Atikokan Renewable Fuels will produce sustainable, clean and renewable pellet fuel from wood residuals, chips and round wood, according to the company.
Rainy Lake Tribal Contracting credits part of its success in a short period of time to an experienced staff, including the dedicated efforts of Gary Prokop and John George. Leading the staff and directing projects is foreman and long time employee Dan Galloway, who has been an asset in multitasking various projects and demands, the company says.
“Recently acquired foreman and registered professional forester Jamie Arthurs has quickly demonstrated his knowledge in compliance and environmental issues as well as health and safety and is a valued addition to the company,” George says. “Our Executive Assistant Shannon King has also dedicated herself to supporting the ongoing demands of our evolving company profile. We’ve also been fortunate to have the support of local companies and vendors.”
“Our company’s success is and will continue to be a collaborative team effort,” he adds. “I believe we’re on the cutting edge of the industry; we’re one of the few wholly owned aboriginal construction companies in this sector.”
In addition to Rainy Lake Tribal Contracting, the Economic Development Corporation also has investments in a hotel, a trucking firm, a pharmacy and insurance company, Marinaro says.