Cyrus Singh, CEO, KEDC

“It’s Important To Collaborate and Connect. Our Futures Depend On It.”

The K’awat’si Economic Development General Partner Corporation (KEDC) was created in 2014 to capitalize on a strong desire by its Gwa’sala ‘Nakwaxda’xw people in Port Hardy, BC, to grow opportunities for their community members. KEDC’s mandate is to investigate and realize revenue, prosperity, skills and development to the community, creating, operating and supporting businesses that will be profitable, environmentally sustainable and culturally significant, while simultaneously respecting their unique cultural values. 

KEDC has registered for ABM Indigenous: Vancouver Island this year. A national pandemic has not deterred their business growth. ABM spoke to their CEO Cyrus Singh to learn more about their work, their vision and their commitment to optimism.

What made you decide to sign on for the Vancouver Island event?

Relationship building is critical to forging lasting success. KEDC is committed to engaging with partners, the ABM events are a great avenue to begin connecting & working with key leaders, stakeholders, businesses, entrepreneurs on Vancouver Island. In these uncertain times, its important to collaborate and connect, our futures depend on it

What does KEDC hope to achieve by being part of it?

KEDC is constantly striving for excellence, we know that achieving this is a team effort. As one of the industry leaders on the North Island we hope to highlight some of the work we are doing and explore other partnerships or opportunities where our expertise can be leveraged.

How have KEDC’s businesses and goals grown and changed over the last few years?

Since 2014, KEDC has entered multiple sectors, including Tourism, Accommodations, Construction, Transport, Fisheries and Forestry industries. My team and predecessor worked hard to create strong and viable businesses that reflect the cultural values of Gwa’sala ‘Nakwaxda’xw people. We continue to support the North Island communities, contributing to local employment and are continuously looking at growth opportunities.

Here is an example of how each of our companies have grown and changed over the last few years:

  • k’awat’si Construction is a Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw -owned company that employs community members including project managers, carpenters and labourers who specialize in wood and steel frame building construction and renovation.
  • K’awat’si Shellfish Company created an aquaculture pilot project focusing on scallops and oysters offshore in the Gwa’sala ‘Nakwaxda’xw traditional territory.
  • KEDC Cold Storage facility has 3 million pounds of cold storage capacity and a 12-hour blast freezer. There are plans to move into processing as we grow. This capacity helps relieve the 10 million pounds of storage shortfall in the region, serving the growing needs of the local fishing community.
  • Kwa’lilas Hotel was renovated by our very own k’awat’si Construction company. The building makes extensive use of local cedar and the design and is meant to resemble the traditional big house style with a smoke hole at the top of the building. Traditionally, when visitors see smoke coming from a big house, it means welcome. You will find many expressions of our nations culture throughout our Port Hardy hotel including masks and designs by our artists. This is our way of sharing the nations history and legends, opening our hearts to welcome people to the North Island.
  • k’awat’si Tours is a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw company that provides aboriginal cultural experiences and locally guided eco-tour adventures on the North Island.
  • Pier Side Landing is a quiet, spacious hotel located on Port Hardy’s waterfront. Visitors will be impressed with the stunning ocean view, friendly staff and clean, comfortable accommodations. The hotel features 55 oversized guestrooms.
  • Gwanak Resources is a Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw -owned company that holds and manages all forestry licenses owned by the Nation. Employing community members with intimate knowledge of the region, including certified arborists, Gwanak provides remote camp services, engineering planning and guidance, road planning and development and sustainable resource management.

What should people be most aware of about KEDC and your people?

The k’awat’si Economic Development General Partner Corporation (KEDC) was created in 2014 to realize the strong desires of our community to capitalize on opportunities. KEDC’s mandate is to investigate and realize revenue, prosperity, skills and development to the community. KEDC is tasked with creating, operating and supporting businesses that will be profitable, environmentally sustainable and culturally significant, while simultaneously respecting the unique cultural values of the Gwa’sala ‘Nakwaxda’xw people.

KEDC has several tourism-focused businesses. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected those businesses, and your others, so far?

KEDC has Kwa’lilas Hotel, Pier Side Landing, k’awat’si Tours are in the Tourism sector that are currently being affected. Since the pandemic started there has been a dramatic shift. Each of the KEDC companies has been affected. In particular, the accommodation business line has suffered. Enduring almost 95% of hotel room cancellations, the closure of our hotel pub and restaurant and laying off employees has been difficult. Everyday we are closely monitoring the development of COVID-19. Our number one priority is the well-being, health and safety of our guests, team members and community. In order to secure just that, we set-up procedures, plans and routines each day.

What do you anticipate will be the outcome after this passes? Do you hope to be open in time for the Fall season, or are you able to resume business sooner if government restrictions are lifted before summer?

Despite the significant losses the tourism industry will suffer, I am hopeful that we will recover, though I expect it will be a struggle. While I anticipate international and domestic tourists will come back eventually, the economic impact of this event should not be underestimated. So, we are taking each day one step at a time. Like everyone we will slowly but surely rebuild our lives, our businesses, our daily routines, our futures, remaining optimistic. All of KEDC companies are ready and waiting with open doors and open hearts to continue business as soon as the government restrictions have been lifted. If we open in the summer or fall, we are ready.

What would you say to people who are afraid to do business right now?

These are uncertain and difficult times, both in our businesses and personal lives, and though we acknowledge this challenge, we must not be overcome by its magnitude. Meeting this as individual businesses may be impossible, so collaboration is key. Whether with governments, business or employees we need to work together to address the known and unknown challenges that we will face.

All over the world businesses are under pressure, some are shutting their doors temporarily and for others, sadly, permanently. And then there are those businesses that are either positioned or have found ways to be innovative and shift to adapt to this environment. This shows how we as humanity are resilient and strong. I am confident that through the hardships, we will hear more stories of hope and courage whether personal or in the business context. So everyday get up, create a healthy daily routine, connect whether through video, phone or text to support and encourage each other to keep going. Set goals, create new plans; using every tool at your disposal to position yourself for the future.

Is there anything else you would like our ABM network to know about KEDC moving forward?

KEDC is actively working on strategic and operational business plans, so we are able move each of our KEDC companies into the future. For instance, my tourism services team is actively working on their management development skills and the operational processes to enable leadership development and to improve future offerings and service levels. We are also working on broad market strategy to engage potential clients and patrons for businesses.

Finally, as with our accommodation businesses, we have open doors and open hearts for those that would like to collaborate. We have expertise in several areas and are happy to build alongside other nations and businesses as we support true economic reconciliation in the Canadian context. We look forward to the engaging with others to not only overcome this current economic challenge but working together to build a resilient and strong network of businesses.

Kwalilas Hotel

The Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy – one of the businesses in the KEDC portfolio.

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