Anemki Mountain Corporation (Anemki) was established by Fort William First Nation in 1993 to manage a 30,000 square foot office building on its territory. Established as a condition of one of the funders of the building at the time, Anemki is a for profit corporation comprised of a board of seven individuals who set the policies for the organization as well as oversee the General Manager in the management of the operation.
The seven individuals are made up of four non-political people and three members of Council, which ultimately has led to decisions being made on a “business” basis rather than political. Although the creation of Anemki was compulsory to some funding received, over the years FWFN has seen the value of such an arrangement and have utilized its management function for a variety of economic development projects.
Once the funding for the original building was in place, the building built and the tenants all securely in leases, it was realized by FWFN that this structure, along with the management capacities achieved, could be used for other buildings in the community. As such, Anemki participated in the management/ownership of other office and community buildings through the years. Right now we are in the midst of negotiating a formal property agreement with FWFN that would cover all office and public buildings.
Some of these building include the Dilico Building, the Wasaya Building, Mount Mckay Office Complex, the Anishnabek Police Services (APS) Building, the Community Centre (including Bingo Hall), the Band Office, The Youth Centre.
Another project we are working on is that of an administration office to lease to NAN and Wasaya Inc. The proposed office is to be 65,000 sq. ft. and would be situated across from the INAC building. Concept drawings are just being commissioned and we hope to get the funding in place over the winter months. As is the case with the other buildings, Anemki will manage this building and forward the profits to FWFN at the end of the year.
Mount McKay (Anemki Mountain)
Anemki also manages the Mount Mckay Lookout – the original name for this Mountain is “Anemki Mountain”. The lookout is seen by our people as a site of great cultural significance so development has been slow, making sure we respect the wishes of our Elders. Starting this year, we will work with the new Culture and Recreation department to implement a comprehensive plan that will ultimately see an Ojibway Interpretive Centre that will go a long way in promoting our culture both to our people and to those who visit our mountain.
Also under Anemki’s management is that of the Fort William First Nation Arena (Arena). In the best of times and circumstances, arenas are difficult to run in that they don’t make a lot of profit. Having some difficulty with the management of the Arena, FWFN approached Anemki to manage it in 2009. Anemki assumed management, made some needed changes including the hiring of a new Arena Supervisor, and have been able to turn the operation around. Anyone (especially our membership) who uses the Arena on a regular basis can see the changes and are again proud of our facility.
As you can see Anemki has three ‘departments”: Building Management, Mountain Operations and Arena Management. Another area that is under negotiation with FWFN is the transfer of the management of FWFN’s Housing program. As you know, or will come to know in the next few days, our First Nation runs many programs and our Council is quite busy in the creation of policy and overseeing the Bands many initiatives. It is hoped that Anemki can bring its management and Board expertise to the housing program.
If you look at other First Nations who have successful housing programs, you will see that their housing is managed by a “Housing Authority or Corporation”. When the transfer takes place (January 2012) Anemki will take on the role of ‘Housing Authority’ and will be able to take a more focused approach, housing will no longer be one ono things on a Council agenda. It is also hoped that pooling our resources, acquiring more staff in the housing department and using our financial successes, can lead to increased housing and increased repairs and renovations for existing homes.
Although forced in the beginning by funders to create Anemki, FWFN is beginning to come to the realization that running a business and running the ‘Band’ should be separate. Actually the stipulation that a corporation must be in place went away many years ago, yet Anemki still remains. If you look throughout the country at other First Nations, you will see that those more successful Bands are those that can make this separation.
In 1993 Anemki started with one employee, the General Manager, whereas today we have 15 employees – 14 of them Band Members. Instead of being looked at as an organization who is taking all of FWFN’s business, we are seen as partners of FWFN whose function allows the band to concentrate on those government-type issues such as employment, training, education, social services, etc.
The increased funding generated by Anemki allows FWFN to spend in those areas either under-funded or not funded by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. FWFN has had the foresight to keep Anemki strong and to use the corporation in its growth, to allow it to make its own decisions rather that ask some of its funders for permission.
Although Anemki has its own Board and structure, we operate with the knowledge that at the end of the day we (Anemki) are here for our community.