What started as a ferry service to Metlakatla 30 years ago, has grown to a corporation with 220 directly employed, and $9.6 million in wages — and this is only for 2017 business operations.
Across the harbour, Prince Rupert is soaking in the steady growth of Metlakatla Development Corporation (MDC) with new jobs, business, training and services.
On Nov. 21, Metlakatla Development Corporation (MDC) released its first economic development report. The study by InterVISTAS Consulting Ltd., the same company the Prince Rupert Port Authority contracted for its economic impact study in 2017, was released at MDC’s annual general meeting.
“We were always low key but then we started to grow so quickly. The board, in one of our strategic planning meetings, decided it was time we went out there and did an analysis on what we provide to the community,” said Harold Leighton, CEO of MDC, as well as the chief councillor for Metlakatla.
Of the 220 jobs through MDC and Coast Tsimshian Enterprises, which is half-owned by MDC, 180 are full-time equivalent positions and the average wage is $53,000. In Prince Rupert the average wage is $49,100, according to Statistics Canada.
With the growth of the Port of Prince Rupert and DP World’s container terminal, MDC is just catching its stride.
|Metlakatla Development Corporation began with one enterprise, the Metlakatla Ferry Service. (MDC photo)|
From ferry service to corporation
It all began when the community wanted a secure and consistent means of transportation, and the Metlakatla Ferry Service was born. From there, the vision grew.
Leighton has been chief councillor of Metlakatla for 31 years. In 1985, the governing council wanted to separate politics from economics and he was asked to set up a development corporation. Two years later, Metlakatla Development Corporation was incorporated, and Leighton stepped into the CEO role.
Members of Metlakatla First Nation over the age of 16 are shareholders in the corporation that includes the Metlakatla Ferry Service, Coastal Training Centre, Coastal Shellfish, Grassy Bay Services, Coastal Business Resource Centre, North Co-Corp Ferry Services, Khtada Environmental Services and Gat Leedm Logistics.
Members benefit from both the success of the corporation and developing job opportunities.
In 2017, MDC provided $208,000 to the governing council to support Metlakatla members attending university or college programs. Another $211,000 went into developing infrastructure in the community.
Benefits are shared beyond its membership. Each year, the corporation pays an estimated $4.1 million in taxes; $207,000 to the City of Prince Rupert, $1.1-million to the B.C. government and $2.7-million to the federal government.
|In the last two years Gat Leedm Logistics has purchased 23 new trucks. (Metlakatla Development Corporation photo)|
Business case: Gat Leedm
Management, skippers, deckhands and labourers make up some of the main positions at MDC enterprises, but the highest in demand — a Class 1 truck driver — is at Gat Leedm Logistics.
General manager of Gat Leedm, Peter McSorely, remembers when they had four employees. Today, they have 61 employees, and more than half are First Nations.
“MDC secures a lot of the work and we have to make sure we can accomplish the goal,” McSorely said.
From humble beginnings as William’s Moving, a trucking and moving company in 2007, McSorely switched gears when he partnered up with Ryan Leighton, director of operations at MDC. They started container hauling, and by 2012 MDC took over.
Gat Leedm delivers fuel for the CN locomotives, they are agents for Van Kam and Clark, but their biggest task is container hauling.
“In the last two years we’ve grown quite a bit, and we’ve required 23 new trucks,” McSorely said.
On busy weeks, he said they deliver approximately 1,600 containers to DP World. Last month, they delivered 900 containers from Ray-Mont Logistics alone.
Once the Ridley-Fairview connector road is complete in the next few years, the distance to and from the container terminal will go from approximately 30 minutes to eight. Gat Leedm is going to need more drivers to keep up with the flow of shipments, which is why they’re considering having a driver-trainer in-house.
Gat Leedm has not had trouble recruiting.
The drivers they hire are entry-level. They spend their shifts in brand new trucks, and McSorely said the draw is they get to be home every night, or every morning, depending on their shift.
The next five to 10 years
While the economic impact study only investigated 2017, MDC has had its hands full with projects this year.
Drive up Seventh Avenue East, and the Metlakatla Senior’s Housing development is well under way. MDC expects the 42-units for seniors to be move-in ready by November 2019.
Coast Tsimshian Northern Contractors Alliance’s contract to build the Fairview-Ridley road is not reflected in the 2017 economic report. Work with LandSea Camp Services started late 2017 and isn’t fully reflected in the report.
MDC’s scallop farms are ready to move beyond the pilot project stage, Leighton said.
“We’re finally to the stage where we’re going commercial after we build the processing plant,” he said.
When asked where MDC will be in the next five to 10 years, Leighton listed a handful projects already in the works and hopes to double their employee base.
Metlakatla plans to develop their land on South Kaien Island, where they will develop a logistics centre for moving containers in and out.
Leighton added they are hoping to have at least three renewable energy projects, such as wind and run-of-the-river hydro power, up and operating. Some of the projects are already beyond the investigative stage.
|Harold Leighton, CEO of Metlakatla Development Corporation, at the Ray-Mont Logistics opening in 2017. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View )|
Key to success
Hire local, contract local, is what MDC strives for.
“We’ve always tried to work locally, with local contractors before we go outside. For any new business we always look at what’s here and if they’d be willing to partner up with us or sell. We give the options to everyone and we always try to keep it local as much as we can. That’s really important to us,” Leighton said.
In terms of building capacity for Metlakatla, he said it has been a bit challenging but they’re hoping to grow through the Coastal Training Centre so more employees will be available from their membership.