Larry Johnson is the president of Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood, a 2018 recipient of a BC Indigenous Business Award. (Submitted photo)
An Indigenous company based in Port Alberni has received some province-wide recognition.
It was officially announced on Wednesday that the Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood Limited Partnership will be the recipient of one of this year’s BC Indigenous Business Awards. The seafood enterprise, owned by six Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, is being honoured via the Business Partnership of the Year category.
This marks the 10th year of the awards, presented by the BC Achievement Foundation. All of the 2018 recipients will be presented with their awards during a ceremony that will be held at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver on Oct. 15.
Larry Johnson, who has served as the president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood company for the past 10 years, is thrilled the business is being honoured with a provincial award.
“We’re very proud,” he said. “It’s been a lot of hard work over the past decade to get to this point. We’ve been incrementally moving forward.”
Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood started off in 2003 as a shellfish development corporation. The six Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations that own the business are Ditidaht First Nation, Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations, Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government and the Uchucklesaht Tribe.
“They’re the ones that deserve credit,” Johnson said of the half dozen First Nations that are shareholders.
These days Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood offers planning and management support to those First Nations that own the company as well as their community members in numerous aspects of fisheries and aquaculture. Johnson said the company was not an overnight success. Plenty of hard work and time was required to get Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood to its current stature.
“There’s been a lot of planning and taking incremental steps,” he said. “And we’ve not really been tooting our own horn.”
Working well with others has also proven to be a valuable commodity. That’s certainly reflected in the fact Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood is being recognized provincially for the way it deals with others.
“It really shows the importance of partnerships and the shared vision of partnerships,” Johnson said.
Though there have been a number of other accomplishments along the way, a significant moment in Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood’s history occurred in November of 2015. That’s when five of the First Nations that own the company – Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation did not participate – purchased the majority shares of the St. Jean’s Cannery and Smokehouse in Nanaimo.
“That’s pretty special to us,” Johnson said of the deal which saw Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood take control of the St. Jean’s Cannery and Smokehouse.
A century ago dozens of canneries existed throughout British Columbia. But St. Jean’s is the only salmon processing cannery remaining in the whole province.
Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood continues to seek processing and industry partnerships as well as other seafood sales, aquaculture projects and vessel purchases. It also assists the First Nations that own the business find funding to create business plans and undertake feasibility studies.
A total of 16 Indigenous entrepreneurs, businesses, community-owned enterprises and partnership entities will be honoured at next month’s awards ceremony. Scott McIntyre, the chair of the BC Achievement Foundation, said all are deserving recipients.
“The 2018 cohort of awardees lead the way as examples of entrepreneurship, commitment and extraordinary vision, all of which play a key role in the strength of our provincial economy,” he said.
More than 600 people are expected to converge for next month’s award ceremony in Vancouver to celebrate Indigenous business excellence in the province. The Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood company is the lone Nuu-chah-nulth winner for these awards this year.
More than 170 winners have been announced in the awards’ 10-year history.
The province of British Columbia established and endowed the BC Achievement Foundation in 2003. It currently honours and celebrates not only Indigenous enterprise but also community service, arts and humanities.
The foundation operates its BC Indigenous Business Awards in partnership with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.