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"The proposed complex is designed as three separate modules connected by glassed-in common areas," the Chief explained. "That way we can build in phases, occupying one module before completing the next one."
For Chief Lafond and the Muskeg Lake Band, this announcement represents a significant achievement. The Band acquired the property in 1988 as part of a Treaty Land Entitlement settlement, and has been working ever since to develop it as an industrial park. The park's name, McKnight Commercial Centre, was a way of recognizing the Hon. Bill McKnight, then federal minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, for his efforts in the settlement process.
"This is a very exciting day for us," said Chief Lafond. "After five years, finally have the beginnings of a strong development-- something we can build on over the long term."
Net rentable space for the completed complex will be 43,200 square feet-- 16,600 square feet in one of the 2-story modules, and 13,300 square feet in each of the other two. One module will face CollegeDrive, while the other two will face Packham Avenue in Sutherland.
Demand for the new space has been high. So far 12 tenants have been confirmed, including the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology. Negotiations are also underway with a major banking institution.
"It's got good access to and from most of the city on Circle and College Drives ... the railway is close at hand, and the zoning allows for a variety of light industrial uses. That makes it an attractive location for a lot of businesses -- especially those owned by or serving Indian people," Chief Lafond.
There will be a minimum of seven Indian organizations setting up headquarters in the complex. Their combined budgets total approximately $30 million. They employ about 450 people (including off-reserve employees), with salaries, wages and benefits totalling in the range of $12 million annually. A number of Indian-owned commercial operations will also locate on the property.
"This should give Indian people access to a variety of organizations, programs and services--all in one location."
Participating in today's ceremony along with Chief Lafond were: His Worship Mayor Henry Dayday; Hon. Bob Mitchell, Provincial Minister of Justice; Hon. Bill McKnight, Federal Minister of Agriculture; Mr. Warren Hannah, President & CEO of Peace Hills Trust; Chief Roland Crowe, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations; and Mr, Ken Thomas, Chairperson, National Aboriginal Economic Development Board.
Construction of the complex will begin immediately under project manager, Tron Power Ltd.. Completion time for Phase One is estimated at 5 to 6 months.
Creek Investments Ltd. a wholly-owned Band company, will own, operate and manage the new office complex.