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“Model” Indian Business Doubles Turnover

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JUNE 1982      v12 n05 p23  
The forty five shareholder Chiefs of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Developments Company met for their first annual meeting on May 10, 1982. The Directors were exhilarated; what they had to report to the Chiefs was a trade turnover of $3.7 million during their first full year of business, considerably more than they had expected.

The figures in the SINCO report reflected only a modest loss; the Director's pointed out, however, that much of the "loss" was investment for the company in training, capital acquisitions, and ground work which will generate revenue in the future. Most companies give themselves a good five years to start operating at a profit. The message to the Shareholder Chiefs was a 200 percent increase in turnover from 1980. Five of the subsidiaries showed profits for the year. The full time staff in the Company rose from thirty-two to eighty-eight, of which seventy-eight are status and non status Indians. This represents $2 million in Indian personal income which did not previously exist. They also claim fifty spin-off jobs directly related to SINCO business operations. Only one enterprise was discontinued as unprofitable: SINCO Electric Ltd. And finally, their $1.00 shares are now worth over $16,000 each.

From the Shareholders came two main concerns. The first was communication. The Corporation had moved so fast in the past year that the usual lines of communication, the telephone and letters, had become inadequate. The Chiefs were not able to keep their own Band membership up to date. A monthly newsletter is being considered.

The Chiefs also talked of the possibilities of on-reserve gas stations and groceries - more reserve-based industries. The meeting discussed marketing and distribution and the corporation will be looking into starting chain-supply operations, like, for example, the Mohawk gas stations where "Mohawk's" role is to supply the gas.

But SINCO's very thin equity base limits growth and prevents it from taking advantage of investment opportunities. This was the main problem that the Corporation executives put to the Shareholder Chiefs.

It was not a question of asking the Government for rescue funding. SINCO wasn't in trouble. If it didn't expand any further, it would not need any further funding. However, the Directors feel vulnerable as some operations remain dependent on single customers or market for a high percentage of trade so that if any backs out or is slow in paying, SINCO must carry their debt; a broader base would also reduce vulnerability to peaks and recessions in current markets.

On the late night news that evening, SINCO's president appealed for further government aid to the company. He had been talking earlier of the corporation's aim for self-sufficiency. Doug Cuthand sees no contradiction: "Yes, SINCO was started largely from Government funding and yes, we are using government agencies to develop it. But so are a lot of other big companies these days. Government agencies like DREE and Manpower are there for just this purpose - to make businesses viable. In this way we're no different from Sidney Steel or IPSCO, etc."

Corporation Executives also point out that while they use conventional financing institutions as much as possible, the Federal government has a clear responsibility under Treaty to support the development of the Indian economy and they have no qualms about approaching them for capital financing from time to time. The answer to under-capitalization was not seen only as further government aid; the Chiefs were concerned that the major control remain in Indian hands, and saw the solution in terms of a heavier financial contribution by the owner Bands: a resolution was unanimously passed on the specifics of their funding arrangements.

In other business, three more Bands had applied for shares in SINCO Developments and shareholders accepted them. With the John Smith, English River and White Bear Bands,~there are now 45 owner Bands. The present Board was mandated to continue for another year. Therefore, it was resolved, the eight positions appointed by the Shareholder Bands be reviewed and elected for two year terms, and the four positions reserved to the FSI be reviewed and elected at each annual shareholders meeting, from 1983.

In his address to the shareholders, President Doug Cuthand said, "SINCO is under scrutiny by the other Indian groups and is fast becoming a national model for Indian developments". And Chief Executive officer, Pat Woods, confirmed that there are an average of three delegations a month from other Indian groups to study SINCO. Director of Corporate Planning, James Burns, said "SINCO Developments is expected to be one of the major "flagship" corporations. . .of Indian enterprise in the market place".