FOB: Brant, Six Nations partner for progress

Brantford - Adidas Canada and BGI Retail are figuring prominently in the the Brant 403 Business Park early progress, but the county's Green Energy partnership with Six Nations may be a main ingredient in the venture's long-term success.

That could also be the case with the county's second venture, the Sharp Road Business Park just off the Oak Park Road-403 interchange.

“There is a promising future in that partnership,” says David Johnston, the county's general manager of economic development and strategic investments.

“Since we signed the Green Energy Economic Accord, its benefits are just becoming visible, but we will see more of them.”

The partnership was forged nearly four years ago when Brant County council and the Six Nations elected band council signed the accord in a flashy ceremony in September 2009, and the two went on to join the Green Energy Hub with surrounding municipalities.

“We are on a new road,” Brant Mayor Ron Eddy said at a signing ceremony for the accord.

“I call it the Green Age,” Chief Coun. Bill Montour said as he held his pen.

“Six Nations and Brant County can work together to be green leaders. Younger generations are counting on us to put the bricks and mortar into place to make it happen.”

The terms of the accord commit the partners to:

  • Work as equal partners to acquire and develop one or more "green energy parks" adjacent to the Rest Acres Road and other fully serviced Highway 403 interchanges in the county.
  • Work to acquire provincial and federal government help in funding the acquisition, development and marketing costs through interest-free loans. They would be repayable as the parks are developed and businesses opened. Those details are already being worked on at Queen's Park.
  • Set up a Green Energy and Economic Development Commission made up of three members from each side to oversee development of the parks with private and public ventures. Provision is made for the city of Brantford and other partners to join, but Six Nations is always guaranteed 50% of the decision-making power.
  • Although the parks will be on county territory, allowing Brant to realize tax revenue, they will work together to have the federal and provincial governments establish a funding mechanism so Six Nations will get an annual cash flow from the development.
  • The accord also dovetailed well with the county's long term economic development strategy driven by the key four-pillar sectors: agricultural, advanced manufacturing, green technology and logistics.

    The elements of that accord have endured, Johnston said, as Brant goes about the development of the Brant 403 Business Park and the Sharp Road Business Park, a few kilometres to the east.

    Right now, Brant and Six Nations are working together on four solar panel projects under the Ontario government's microFIT program. Three are in the Brant 403 Business Park and one is in the Six Nations Oneida Business Park.

    “We at the county are also assisting in other applications involving Six Nations that could come to fruition soon,” said Johnston.

    Those projects come as a result of a pact Brant and Six Nations put together to direct investment. Among its elements:

  • The county would agree to help Six Nations in its efforts to resolve outstanding land claims. The assistance includes the county's participation in presentations and helping Six Nations gain access to ontario and federal government officials.
  • Brant will request that any company locating in the Brant 403 Business Park give equal consideration to hiring qualified Six Nations workers in both the construction and ongoing operation of their businesses.
  • The county administration will request all companies with more than 100 employees to coordinate job fairs on Six Nations to ensure fair opportunity exists in the job market.
  • In the area of investment opportunities, the county will encourage all companies in the business park to support green energy by installing ground mount and/or roof mount solar systems.
  • Brant will help develop methods to finance Six Nations required equity investment in projects being developed by Brant Renewable Energy, owned by the county. Six Nations will get the opportunity to invest in a 600-kilowatt ground mount solar project and get a minimum 15% interest and negotiated maximum investment.
  • Six Nations has a chance to invest in a 500-kilowatt rooftop solar project that is part of the Adidas Canada warehouse project in the business park on much the same terms as the ground-mount project.
  • “It's fair to say that the accord and other documents speak to the respect shown by both parties,” said Johnston.

    “We recognize that land claims and issues around them have to be left to senior levels of government, but we can work together until they are resolved.”

    As an example of the accord's prospects, Johnston noted that Adidas has agreed to a solar energy project.

    “This is the first time in all their plants that Adidas has engaged in solar energy technology, and they are quite enthusiastic about it.”