In the 1990’s, the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) began an aggressive program of economic development resulting in 90% band employment.
Today, the OIB owns or has interests in 12 businesses and over the past decade, has generated more than $220 million in capital spending through business projects and programs that employ representatives from 38 First Nations across Canada.
In 2013, the OIB opened the 44.5-hectare (110-acre) Senkulmen Business Park. A key feature of the park is a geothermal cooling and heating system, made possible, in part, by a $250,000 investment from the B.C. First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund.
Designed and installed by Geotility, a leading geothermal installation company, the goal of the system is to provide sustainable, ecologically friendly, lower-cost energy for business park tenants and generate profit for OIB over the long term. A closed-loop piping system is designed to circulate fluid throughout the site, transferring heat to and from each building.
“The B.C. First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund contribution has enabled our Senkulmen Business Park to become one of the most environmentally and energy-sustainable commercial park developments in Canada,” said Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band. “This business park is boosting our area economy, while respecting the environment. For us, this is about creating new jobs and business opportunities that will benefit generations to come. I commend the B.C. government for its progressive clean energy program.”
The business park’s geothermal system began operation in the fall of 2014, heating and cooling a nearby winery warehouse and distribution centre. It keeps the interior of the 3,716 square-metre (40,000 square-foot) winery warehouse and distribution centre at a consistent 18 degrees Celsius year-round.
The system will be expanded to service the new $200-million Okanagan Correctional Centre, which will be finished in 2016 and become operational in 2017. In March 2013, the Province announced the signing of a historic 60-year agreement with the OIB to lease land within the Senkulmen Business Park. The partnership to build the new provincial correctional centre on OIB land is the first such partnership between the Province and an Aboriginal group in British Columbia.
The correctional facility is approximately 27,870 square metres (300,000 square feet) in total area, including 11 living units and 378 cells. When fully operational, the new centre will significantly increase corrections capacity in B.C.’s Interior, enhance public safety and create 240 new jobs in corrections.
The correctional centre will have access to geothermal heating and cooling services provided by Senkulmen Utilities (an OIB Development Corporation company) that is generated within the business park and delivered to the corrections site. This will provide sustainable, cost-effective and environmentally efficient heating and cooling for the facility.
Funding for clean energy projects and ensuring more First Nations are involved in economic opportunities that make their communities stronger is part of the Province's commitment to reconciliation with First Nations.