New manufacturing plant to create sustainable economic growth for Alberta First Nation

·2 min read
From left: Ken Braget, Ian Arcand, Chief George Arcand, Kris VanderBurg and Rick Wilson, minister of Indigenous relations, at a ribbon-cutting for Alexander Valve and Supply. (Submitted by Ken Braget - image credit)
From left: Ken Braget, Ian Arcand, Chief George Arcand, Kris VanderBurg and Rick Wilson, minister of Indigenous relations, at a ribbon-cutting for Alexander Valve and Supply. (Submitted by Ken Braget - image credit)

A  new manufacturing plant owned by the Alexander First Nation, near Edmonton, aims to create skilled job opportunities and long-term employment.

Alexander Valve and Supply, which makes valves for the oil and gas industry, had its opening on Friday, marking a new era of self-sustaining economic growth for the community.

Edmonton businessman Ken Braget, who brought the idea to the First Nation 55 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, said he wanted to offer community members new opportunities in the areas of employment and skills development.

Braget, who is Métis from Michel First Nation, spoke to CBC's Edmonton AM on Monday.

"I just started thinking, like, why are we not looking at this opportunity to invest in our Indigenous communities by giving them infrastructure to then build skills, build employment and then build off of that?

"The way forward, I believe, in true reconciliation has got to be skill development. It's got to be, you know, being involved, having ownership and meaningful employment."

The manufacturing facility, in a former hockey rink, currently has five employees who are undergoing training.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Alexander First Nation said having the company is an amazing milestone for the community and they look forward to "generations of success."

"The value Alexander Valve and Supply will bring to the Nation is immeasurable," RJ Arcand, business development and marketing specialist for Alexander Business Corporation, said in the statement.

"Employment and training for Alexander members is just one of many benefits we will see throughout. To say we are excited is an understatement."

Braget had thought about the idea of helping Indigenous communities be more financially sustainable since 2018.

Early in 2021, he decided to reach out to Indigenous communities around Edmonton with the idea of a partnership opportunity for his business, True North Valve Solutions.

In March 2021, Alexander First Nation reached out to him about the possibility of partnering.

Originally, Braget said he had envisioned providing Alexander with a manufacturing facility; True North would buy the products and distribute them.

But in June 2021, the reserve decided to buy his company out. Braget remains its CEO.

"I agreed because I believe that it's a perfect way forward for our First Nations communities to actually be involved and have ownership and control," he said.

Braget's 10- to 15-year goal for the company is to move the distribution centre, currently in Edmonton, to Alexander. He said he'd like to see the company grow to employ 100 people.

He hopes the company not only provides jobs but a way for the youth in the area to build up a resume if they want to move on to bigger opportunities outside.