WIKWEMIKONG—The sun was shining bright on the community of Wikwemikong Friday as well-wishers, band members and partners gathered to mark the occasion of the grand opening of the Wikwemikong Small Business Centre.
“We are on the path of moving forward to economic prosperity,” said Councillor Lawrence Enosse, who holds the economic development portfolio for the Wikwemikong council, going on to thank the leadership, the board at Waubetek, the extended funding sources and “you, the community members.”
Mr. Enosse thanked the leadership and “leaders in development” who chose to make economic development a priority in the community. “Now we have the opportunity to shop local, right in our own community,” he said. “Wikwemikong has one of the few businesses on the Island that is actually open until 9 pm, so come shop!”
Waubetek Business Development Corporation Executive Director Dawn Madahbee spoke of the pride she feels “when you come into a community that’s so focussed on economic development and infrastructure.” Touring the site, she said she had made some calculations in her mind, approximating that the new business centre would create close to 100 new jobs for the community.
Ms. Madahbee also acknowledged Mary Lynn Odjig, Wikwemikong Development Corporation’s (WDC) general manager, for her 25 years in a leadership role, recalling the days when Ms. Odjig worked out of the old Wikwemikong dance hall. “What a great legacy,” she said, remarking on the WDC, its “great crew” and what she knew would be many more successful future projects.
Mr. Enosse thanked Ms. Madahbee and Waubetek for her dedication to the community.
Lloyd McGregor, speaking on behalf of the WDC, acknowledged LAMBAC for its continued support to the project, providing the board with $87,252 in training dollars.
Representatives from the various partners in the project, including TD Bank, Tribury Construction and Castellan James and Partners Architects all took turns at the podium, thanking the community for having them as part of the project, all of them noting the spirit of cooperation that took place over the course of the undertaking.
Chief Duke Peltier paid special thanks to UCCM Castle Building Supply in M’Chigeeng.
“Wikwemikong has made a point to purchase all of its materials through them,” he said, “ensuring the best possible price, plus our support. Chi-miigwetch to them.”
Winners of the naming contest for the three band buildings were called. Michael Eshkawkogan won for the Wikwemikong Mini Mall (to much laughter from the audience) located on Wikwemikong Way, Eugene Peltier won for his entry of the Chi-Nodin Business Centre (the small business centre) while Luke Robert Jr. Pheasant won for his name for the marina, calling it Chi-tikimeg.
Joni Roy, president of Enaadmaagehjik, said, “the mini mall was not necessarily a dream, but more of a vision that came from the community level.” Ms. Roy spoke of the community leakage study that was undertaken. “We brought the results to the community and listened to what they wanted—a dollar stand—taa daa!” she said.
The partners all gathered before the business centre for not one, but two ribbon cutting ceremonies: one for Your Dollar Store With More and the other for the Chi-Nodin Business Centre.
“It was a project of partnerships,” Mr. Enosse said. “We are open for business in our community. We have lots to offer for both the community and the whole Island.”
Following the closing prayer by Frank Fisher and closing song by Harvey Bell, the grand opening broke for face painting, musical entertainment, a barbecue and a tour of the centre which is home to Your Dollar Store With More, FirstTel (which also houses Wiky TV5), and the soon-to-be home of the Wikwemikong Fitness Centre, Wikwemikong Dance Studio and Wikwemikong Art Gallery.