In 1995 the Membertou Band had 37 employees, was operating on a $4 million dollar budget while dealing with a $1 million dollar annual operating deficit. The community was poor with low morale and a high unemployment rate. It was then that Chief Terrance Paul decided it was time for a major change. With great determination he and the council recruited band members that had left the reserve years prior to pursue their education and were employed throughout the country by various companies such as Lang Michener Barristers & Solicitors, the Union of Nova Scotia Indians and other corporate and government organizations. Within the year Membertou successfully recruited lawyer Bernd Christmas as CEO, and Dan Christmas as Senior Advisor to the Chief.
This new formed leadership decided that an unprecedented approach for Membertou was needed and that it would start by putting its financial house in order while embracing transparency and accountability. While this task required sacrifice it also generated a renewed sense of accomplishment (deficit eliminated) and discipline that quickly earned the respect of external parties in government and industry.
With its financial house in order and a vastly improved capacity in management and administration, Membertou was now positioned to play a greater part in the mainstream economy. With a goal of generating new revenue streams to diminish dependence on government transfers, Membertou made three strategic decisions.
The first was to actively forge a new economic frontier, one that built on the innovations of today while at the same time, incorporated indigenous knowledge based principles of conservation, sustainability of resources and reverence for the land and the waters.
With the principles of conservation, sustainability, innovation and success firmly in place, Membertou then strategically increased its profile with major private sector companies by launching the Membertou Corporate Office in downtown Halifax. The unprecedented profile this provided has assisted in leading to the formation of a number of lucrative partnerships with private industry sectors in Oil and Gas, Engineering, Mining, GIS, IT, Aerospace, Business Management and Consulting services.
The third strategic decision was to initiate proactive education and career-related training programs for the residents of Membertou in order to maximize on employment opportunities that arose as a result of the newly forged business partnerships and initiatives. The present and future development opportunities flowing from these three strategic decisions continue to build momentum for Membertou’s aspirations of financial independence and self-determination.
Over the last ten years, Membertou’s budget has grown from 4 million dollars, to a current 65 million dollar operating budget. The number of employees has jumped from 37 to 531 to date. There are many new internal departments and businesses such as the Membertou Market, Membertou Advanced Solutions, Membertou Mapping Service, Membertou Quality Management Services, and most recently the prestigious Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.