Kish-Gon-Dug Canada Handcrafted Wood Products had its official grand opening at Naicatchewenin First Nation last Wednesday.
Although the business has been up and running since 2000, this still was an important milestone for the factory as the ceremony marked the success it has enjoyed so far.
Working out of an old bus garage, they started by producing lawn and patio furniture made from western red cedar from British Columbia trying to prove it would be a good project to invest in.
FedNor assisted the company and supplied money for marketing.
Since then, a new building was constructed and now the company is proud to report it is receiving such an overwhelming number of contracts that it finds it hard to keep up.
To address this increase in demand, KGD Canada has begun outsourcing some of its components to other business in Rainy River District, which has created numerous jobs in Atikokan through Turtle Wood Enterprises and also in Stratton with Lilac Hill Woodworks.
Moves also have been made recently to pull Devlin’s Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. into the mix.
Basically, the labour pool in Naicatchewenin is limited due to economics (high gas prices make it difficult to get workers out there), but overall, through outsourcing, the factory has expanded job opportunities for many in the area.
“This has been a very good investment,” enthused Louise Paquette, director general of FedNor. “It has been a good investment in building a better community and in creating more jobs.
“This is a great example of an aboriginal community taking the lead and creating opportunities, and reaching out a hand to non-aboriginal communities,” she added.
“You don’t see that often.”
“This venture is proving to be beneficial in the creation of partnerships on and off-reserve throughout the Rainy River District,” echoed Tony Marinaro, economic development advisor with Pwi-di-goo-zing Ne-yaa-zhing Advisory Services.
“It just goes to show how important each community is to one another and how success can be shared.
“This has been a real ripple effect for the district,” he stressed. “I’ll tell you, we could have two more factories working full-time and we could still be busy.”
Marinaro indicated the Internet has been a key player in affecting sales. Since their product is exported to the United States and Europe, the “web” really has opened up the venue for placing orders.
“It’s just strange to see all sorts of factories closing down but to see this one doing so well,” he remarked.
To date, KGD Canada has received many awards, including a Northern Ontario Business Award and one from the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce.
As well, Marinaro and Naicatchewenin Chief Wayne Smith have been asked to speak at the third-annual community economic development officer conference coming up in late August in Niagara Falls.
They will be speaking on the different stages of business development, including marketing and exporting product to Europe and the U.S.
The conference, sponsored by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, assists First Nations’ economic development officers to access the tools, skills, and networking opportunities required to effectively deliver economic development programs and services within their communities.