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Aboriginal entrepreneur wins FPAC/AFN business award


July 28, 2009
By Pulp & Paper Canada

The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) have selected Grace E…

The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) have selected Grace Esquega, president of Niigaani Enterprises, as the first winner of the FPAC/AFN Aboriginal Forest Products Business Leadership Award.

The award honours First Nations entrepreneurs for their success in a forest products business that exemplifies business leadership, exceptional environmental and safety performance, and the delivery of high-quality products and services. The award recipient must also demonstrate a strong, long-term commitment to the Aboriginal community, particularly in supporting Aboriginal employment.

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“Grace Esquega and the workers at Niigaani Enterprises are inspirational leaders on every front,” said Avrim Lazar, president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada. “They enhance the rural economy by providing communities with skills training and long-term employment opportunities through sound business practices and strong partnership with governments and stakeholders. And they do this always with a view to achieving their environmental objectives.”

“This award means a great deal to me and to my staff,” says Ms. Esquega. “It signifies the successful culmination of a long journey for my family and the many workers who were part of a dream — a dream that my husband had in 1983 when he started Niigaani Enterprises. He envisioned a logging operation, owned and operated by native people, which would provide our community with meaningful employment for a long time. I look around and see many families that benefit from this company and feel a sense of security.”

Niigaani has been delivering fibre to Thunder Bay area sawmills and pulp and paper mills for more than 25 years and has also been involved in silvicultural activities such as scarification, tree planting and tending in the Spruce River and Black Sturgeon forests.

The award is being presented to Ms. Esquega at the Assembly of First Nations Annual General Meeting in Calgary.


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