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Proud to be Cree

·5 min read

Gestion ADC is celebrating 25 years of playing a vital role in the economic growth of Cree communities, continuing to build on its expertise in providing reliable food and maintenance services for remote northern work camps. Since becoming the first Cree company to make the prestigious Profit 100 list of Canada’s fastest growing companies in 2008, ADC has shown no signs of slowing down.

“We’ve been working hard at trying to capture business outside of our territory,” said Derrick Neeposh, president of both ADC and its parent organization, Cree Regional Economic Enterprises Company (CREECO). “Capturing opportunities in the south is one of the key components of the expansion of the company. We’re still eyeing some opportunities in Ontario and hopefully in other provinces as well.”

Neeposh told the Nation that while an attempt to provide services for a mining campsite in Ontario’s Long Lake First Nation didn’t ultimately materialize, SOPFEU, Quebec’s forest fire suppression service, recently knocked on its doors. At the same time, ADC continues to expand its reach and business offerings within Cree communities.

“We’ve done some initial work in specialized services, such as duct cleaning for air ventilation services in commercial buildings,” said Neeposh. “Other areas involve janitorial services for the facilities of the Cree School Board, Cree Health Board, Cree Nation Government and local band offices. There’s just a never-ending network of possibility when it comes to working with the communities and regional entities.”

Gestion ADC began as a joint venture between Cree Construction Development Company (CCDC) and Aliments Domco Cree, before CCDC became full owner of the company in 1996. CREECO designated it as an independent subsidiary a few years ago. As CCDC president Robert Baribeau recently remarked, “It was big enough to fly on its own.”

“I think back to the start of this journey and how we had the vision to participate in the development of the territory,” Neeposh stated. “Development was happening all around us, and we saw an opportunity to train and employ many people to provide essential catering and janitorial services on large industrial worksites.”

Growing from early contracts with Hydro-Québec to overseeing the management of vast mining camps, ADC’s reliable service has enabled these companies to focus on their core business without worrying about their staff’s wellbeing. As the first Canadian Indigenous company to obtain ISO-9001 certification in its field, ADC has provided a wide range of site management solutions, including housekeeping, facility maintenance and security.

“We’ve operated restaurants, bars, convenience stores, kiosks, cafeteria and anything the client requires in the remote site,” former director Anthony MacLeod told Canadian Business Journal in 2011. “But if you can imagine when there are 2,300 men and women living on a camp, all the necessities of a small town need to be there.”

While the Covid pandemic complicated staffing and interrupted certain projects, ADC quickly introduced new electrostatic spraying technology to the region’s mine sites and schools to eliminate deadly germs. The company also leveraged its immense purchasing power to secure an ample supply of personal protective equipment, which it then offers to local stores.

“We’re looking at providing that [electrostatic] technology to daycares, for example, where it gets important to take care of our people,” explained Neeposh. “If we’re given this opportunity, we take it to heart to be part of the solution. People come first, business comes second. That’s a testament to what the company is capable of doing.”

Gestion ADC recently won a contract to renovate the kitchen and take over the operations of La Perle Bleue, the restaurant of the Espresso Hotel, which annually accommodates about 20,000 Cree patients and family escorts who require medical services in Montreal.

“We heard their cries for help on social media, patient complaints about the quality of food they were getting from the hotel,” Neeposh said. “The Cree Health Board approached us and gave us the opportunity to find a solution together. Today, we’re very proud of the fact that patients are getting better quality food.”

Gestion ADC’s experience in serving a diverse clientele made it a natural choice for providing healthy and balanced meals that draw on Indigenous food traditions and ingredients. As a company proudly owned by the Cree Nation, supporting the Cree culture while contributing to the Nation’s growth has always been at its heart.

Cree communities share in the success of CREECO companies – in 2020-2021, CCDC returned $2.8 million and Gestion ADC returned $1.4 million to the communities. Joint ventures with local partners remain an important component of both companies, including ADC’s partnerships with Mistissini’s Kiskinshiish, Wemindji’s Wolf Camp and Waswanipi’s Miyuu Kaa.

“We always bear in mind that the shareholders are just as important as the staff that run these companies,” shared Neeposh. “We want to help other First Nations as well. How we run the company is one thing but sending out that example of who we are and where we come from is equally important.”

In celebrating this anniversary, Gestion ADC emphasized that its 370 dedicated employees are at the heart of its achievements. Training programs applied under Apatisiiwan Skills Development are a big part of operations, along with ample on-the-job empowerment.

“An individual approached me a year ago and said, ‘I don’t want to be a janitor all my life, I want to start my own janitorial business cleaning homes,’” Neeposh recalled. “That’s an example of the training benefits. If a person has an entrepreneurial mind, they will develop that on their own.”

With growing business volume necessitating the hiring of a director general and eventually a full-time president, Neeposh looks at emerging mine sites in Eeyou Istchee as an opportunity for both the company and Cree youth. At career fairs, ADC promotes benefits like working half the year on a full salary through 14-day shifts on- and off-site.

“The workforce required for future mine sites is just a dropin a bucket when you look at the 500 youth who will turn 18 next year,” Neeposh explained. “That’s a big workforce we have to prepare for. It’s a wonderful experience for a lot of young people who come out of high school and don’t want to go to school in the south.”

Patrick Quinn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nation

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