Working together and making space for Indigenous communities

Steve Stark considers it a compliment when business colleagues compare him to a Swiss Army® knife. “When I hear that in a meeting I laugh, but it’s true,” he says. Steve is the president and CEO of Delta-based Tsawwassen Shuttles Inc. (TSI), one of the 13 Indigenous-owned or -affiliated businesses working on our Pattullo Gas Line Replacement project in Burnaby. As the owner of a diversified company employing 35 people, Steve is proud to be compared to that versatile and iconic pocket knife. 

Steve launched TSI in 2011 as a charter shuttle bus service in Tsawwassen. He’s steadily grown his business to offer transportation, marine, street sweeping and watering services around the Lower Mainland. “TSI is known for diversification,” he says. “When someone is looking for help with something—whether or not it’s on my website—I’ll either be able to provide that resource, or I’ll refer them on to another successful business that can.” 

Raising the bar for others to follow

Steve has worked hard to develop a successful business and set an example for others to follow. 

“I’m driven to succeed,” Steve explains. “It’s important to me to set the bar high for community members and help them wherever I can.” 

Steve’s desire to help his Tsawwassen First Nation community by creating local jobs, offering equity to community members to help them start their own business and supporting the work of local organizations, such as Reach Child and Youth Development, caught the attention of the BC Achievement Foundation. In 2021, it awarded Steve and TSI with an Indigenous Business Award.

Steve credits the Tsawwassen First Nation community for his business success. “The award belongs to Chief Ken Baird and others like him in the community who are willing to give others the space they need to grow in a healthy, positive way,” says Steve. Steve received 20 letters of recommendation in support of his award nomination, many of them from companies TSI had worked for, including FortisBC.

Steve says his relationship with FortisBC started a number of years ago, and has continued to grow. “I’ve been crossing paths with people from FortisBC for quite some time and gotten to know them. At this point, our relationship is not really about business anymore,” he explains. “For me, it’s about the fact that FortisBC is willing to stand behind someone who is trying to change the trajectory for First Nations people on a variety of different levels.”

Sharing the benefits of our projects with Indigenous communities

Providing Indigenous communities with business development and employment opportunities is an important business priority for FortisBC and is identified in our Statement of Indigenous Principles

“We’re cognizant of the importance of Reconciliation,” says Greg Edgelow, Indigenous relations manager at FortisBC who is of Cree and mixed ancestry. “It’s important to be aware of the past, acknowledge what’s happened, look at ways to atone and take action on them—we need to ‘walk the talk’.”

We work closely with our construction contractors to share details about our projects – including employment, training and contracting opportunities – with local Indigenous communities and businesses. We start by actively engaging with the business development teams of Indigenous communities and requesting their business registries. These registries are then shared with our construction contractors, who communicate with the Indigenous businesses on the registries and make them aware of the contract opportunities that are available on our projects.
On the Pattullo project, our construction contractor, Peter Kiewit Sons ULC (Kiewit), oversaw the procurement process. Out of the more than 40 contract opportunities they awarded, 13 went to Indigenous-owned and -affiliated businesses. The contracts with Indigenous businesses are worth more than $10 million in business combined, including work such as tree trimming and clearing, traffic control,  paving, soil disposal, land leasing, site security, street lighting, fabrication, quality control and street sweeping.

“The open, competitive bidding process for the Pattullo Gas Line Replacement project revealed how important Indigenous businesses are to our projects,” says Greg. “Nearly one third of all subcontractor bids Kiewit received were from Indigenous-owned or -affiliated businesses. Plus, the significant number of contracts Kiewit awarded to Indigenous-owned or -affiliated businesses speaks to the quality and competitiveness of their bids.”

Sharing knowledge

Steve Stark, President & CEO, TSI and member of the Tsawwassen First Nation

TSI secured the contract to provide street sweeping services for the Pattullo project. “We appreciate having that business, but my relationship with FortisBC is about so much more than that,” notes Steve. In the spirit of finding ways to expand business opportunities for Indigenous communities in other parts of BC, FortisBC asked Steve to share his knowledge about business ownership with them. Steve was happy to help. “I’m starting to talk to other First Nation communities about entrepreneurship—strategizing ways they can start or grow a business,” says Steve. “I’m a huge proponent of opening doors and making space for others to succeed. FortisBC is actively doing that for Indigenous communities and businesses.”