October 11, 2016.
Siksika Nation is taking $28 million equity from its $123 million Castle Mountain land claim settlement and investing in a big way.
“Siksika Nation itself is in the position to start investing,” said Shane Breaker, general manager, retail and construction development services with Siksika Resource Developments Ltd. “Siksika needs to get on the map for major investment, commercial, real estate, any other ventures out there.”
In 2017, Siksika Nation will be co-owners of two hotels and conference centres that will be branded under the First Nation’s name and boast Blackfoot culture.
“We felt that a hotel (investment) would be one that our people would accept and something really long term,” said Breaker.
Talks began this past April between Siksika Resource Developments Ltd. and PAL Hospitality Ltd. Vancouver-based PAL has been investing in hotels for a number of years and had already begun construction of hotels in Calgary and Edmonton. Ongoing talks resulted in SRDL and PAL creating a 50-50 joint venture partnership for the two Starwood franchise hotels, which will open in 2017.
“It’s the first major investment for Siksika Nation in a public setting,” said Breaker.
For that reason, he adds, Siksika decided to be prudent.
“We wanted to partner with PAL because they know the hospitality business. They’ve been doing this for many, many years and they know how to invest,” said Breaker. “They’re definitely a great group to work with. They’re very flexible and very patient in dealing with First Nation investment opportunities.”
Breakers notes that Siksika Nation is PAL’s first partnership with a First Nation.
“This partnership may just grow and we may look at other investment opportunities in different locations, outside of Alberta,” he said.
The Westin Calgary Airport Hotel and Conference Centre, located next to the Calgary International Airport, is scheduled to open in the summer of 2017. It will be a 225,000-square foot full service hotel with 250 guest rooms, five floors, with a modern 40,000-square foot conference centre.
In September 2017, the Four Points & Element Hotel and Conference Centre West Edmonton will open. While construction on the 137,568-square foot full service hybrid hotel with 221 guest rooms and four floors is underway, the modern 40,000-square foot conference centre adjacent to the property will begin construction within the next six months. The hotel and conference centre will be located on 100 Avenue between the Anthony Henday Drive and 184 Street in west Edmonton.
“These two locations are ideal for us,” said Breaker.
The Calgary and Edmonton locations will allow Chief and Council to host Aboriginal provincial, national and international major events and conferences at Siksika-owned facilities and will provide Siksika Nation members with discounted accommodation rates in the two cities. The locations could also play host to non-Indigenous events.
“Over the years I’ve known our leadership, they’ve always wanted to have an investment in a hotel in a major city,” said Breaker.
But investment goes beyond bricks and mortar. The hotels will allow Siksika members to build careers in the hospitality industry, hotel maintenance, and event planning, among other jobs. Breaker says they’ll explore the possibility with the Siksika Nation employment and training department to recruit membership into the industry.
Membership is pleased to see the new direction the Nation is taking, says Breaker.
“Siksika is finally invested in something big and really investing into the future and future revenues that can be generated from this venture back to Siksika,” he said.