It was not easy for Gord Chipman to remain silent.
The manager of Alkali Resource Management Ltd. (ARM) south of Williams Lake knew weeks ago they were receiving a 2020 Indigenous Business Award but had to keep the exciting news under wraps until the official announcement was made public by the B.C. Achievement Foundation.
On Monday, Oct. 5 he was finally able to break word.
“When we finally got the award that just confirmed our suspicions,” Chipman said.
“We’ve always thought that we have the best First Nation forestry company in the province, so it’s nice getting this recognition.”
The first person Chipman said he told was Esketemc First Nation managing director Patricia Chelsea.
She had pressed him to put ARM’s name forward for the provincial awards which have honoured and celebrated Indigenous business excellence in B.C. since 2008.
“It was her idea. I had to let her know first,” Chipman said.
“She said it’s about time that ARM gets recognized in the province for what they’re doing in the forest industry.”
The integrated forest management company was established in 2001 to manage the forest licences, woodlot and 27,000 hectare community forest on behalf of Esk’etemc.
After changing its name in 2005 from Esketemc First Nation Forest Products to ARM, Chipman said the business continues to expand.
Having outgrown their previous office space near the Alkali Lake Store, a 3,600-square-foot building was constructed in the middle of Esk’et (Alkali Lake) across from the community’s church a couple of years ago.
“I spent 17 working for large corporations, and the last 10 years working out at Alkali has been truly rewarding for myself and my family,” Chipman said.
ARM annually employs approximately 100 people.
As an awardee of the 12th annual B.C. Achievement Indigenous Business Award, ARM will be celebrated in a series of digital campaigns and films honouring their achievements this November.
“I am particularly inspired by this year’s awardees,” stated B.C. Achievement Foundation chair, Anne Giardini.
“All of them exemplify resilience and innovation during this time of challenges. This year’s awardees demonstrate that integrating the practices of the past with the economies of the future benefits us all.”
Despite it being a stressful year due to COVID and having ended their past financial year in April on a sour note due to volatile market conditions, Chipman believes a bright future still lays ahead for ARM even as they cautiously watch if stumpage rates — which ARM annually shells out $3 to $4 million — will increase next year.
He said ARM signed a three-year fibre supply agreement with Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. in Williams Lake in 2019.
This year ARM is exploring long-term arrangements with Atlantic Power Corporation in Williams Lake on biomass, and are starting to manage Tolko’s licenses located within their traditional territory on behalf of Tolko.
“We’ve only been doing it for six months but we’re having longer term plans working with Tolko,” Chipman said.
“We’ve been trying to work with some of the other forest entities like B.C. Timber Sales and West Fraser Timber, so I see the scope and the opportunities increasing year after year,” he added.