Lheidli T’enneh Break Ground
Lheidli T’enneh -It is an historic day for the Lheidli Tenneh First Nation as they break ground on two fronts.
First, they have officially started construction of a new gas bar-convenience store that will be located at IR#2 in Shelley, across from the Band Office, but this First Nation is also breaking ground in that this project is their first commercial venture on the reserve.
“This project has been in the works for years” says Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dominic Frederick . There had been an Atco trailer on the selected site before, with the plan for a convenience store, but Chief Frederick says it never became operational and Indian Affairs eventually removed the equipment.
Now, the plan is for a gas station that will offer regular gas and diesel and a convenience store that will provide tobacco products and convenience items. Community Economic Development Manager Zishan Shah says the business case for the operation has been based on the customers who already come to the Band Office on Whenun Road for their tobacco.
The Lheidli T’enneh also had some discussions with the McLeod Lake Band which operates a similar successful operation on Highway 97 North. “Of course, they have a much better location” says Shah, who adds if the Lheidli T’enneh project proves to be successful, the band may consider buying property in a better location and moving the gas station and store to that site as all of the infrastructure will be portable.
Shah says they gained a lot of information from McLeod Lake on how to operate this kind of business. “We will run it for about 6 months and that will give us enough time to establish hours of operation, and the number of staff needed to operate the business.”
Chief Frederick says while Status Indians will receive the full benefit of the cost reductions for gas and other federally taxed items, non status customers can also expect to see fuel offered at a discounted rate . He chuckled and joked “It will be cheaper than Costco.”
The Lheidli T’enneh have been busy. Chief Frederick says not only is the office space they occupy at 2nd and George Street full and active with economic development and treaty work, but the Lheidli have recently purchased the old theatre at the corner of 3rd and Vancouver Street in Prince George. He says they plan to turn that space into a meeting and conference centre.
Regional District of Fraser Fort George Chair, Art Kaehn says the gas station and store complex on the reserve will be welcome news for the Lheidli T’enneh neighbours “Those who live in the area will now have another option to get things they need rather than having to drive all the way into Prince George.”
The gas bar is expected to be operational December, with a grand opening set for the new year.