OCTOBER 22, 2013
Andy Thomas, hereditary leader of the Esquimalt First Nation for more than 35 years, cracks a proud smile as a 140-foot spud barge touches the pier at Ogden Point and its massive crane swings into gear to begin driving piles for a new docks.
“We’ve been kept out of the economy for too long, but now we are back,” says Thomas as he surveys the equipment and crews that make up Salish Sea Industrial Services Ltd., a pile-driving and dredging company launched last year by Ralmax Contracting and the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations.
Salish Sea has earned $9 million in marine contracts in its first fiscal year. But the real value for Thomas is the employment and training for members of the local First Nations, who he says have been mired in poverty and see few opportunities to land highly skilled, well-paying jobs.