Next year's start of construction of the East-West Tie Transmission Project will be a "huge win" to enable Indigenous communities on the north shore of Lake Superior to recruit and grow a homegrown skilled workforce.
"I think everyone's eyes are going to open," said Red Rock Indian Band Coun. Matthew Dupuis, a director for Supercom Industries, which is partnering with the project's lead contractor.
Supercom is a contracting and training joint venture run by six First Nation communities across whose traditional land the power line upgrading project will cross.
Its mandate is to maximize First Nations involvement in the $700-million corridor project by supplying skilled labour, negotiating service and supply con: tracts, and cultivating business partnerships.
In mid-December, East-West developer NextBridge Infrastructure selected Valard Construction as the general contractor to build the 450-kilometre-long line between Wawa and Thunder Bay.
The green flag to start construc| tion on the often delayed power I project drops in late 2018 with completion slated for 2020. It involves clearing the right-of-way for the construction of a doublecircuit 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission line, which would parallel an existing corridor.
The upgraded line would provide a bigger pipeline of power to the northwest to ensure a greater reliability of supply and support future industrial growth, especially in mining.
Last summer, the Supercom communities of Fort William First Nation, Red Rock Indian Band, Pays Plat First Nation, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, Pic Mobert First Nation and Michipicoten First Nation struck their own exclusive agreement with Valard.
In emphasizing local content, Dupuis said they've been working with the Edmonton-based electrical utility contractor to bring area First Nation-run businesses into the picture and negotiate contractual agreements.
Dupuis said it's difficult to approximate the employment numbers for the area First Nations since a percentage of Indigenous content was never included in their deal with Valard.
"It was always about providing as many competent and capable bodies that you could bring."
Peak employment during construction is pegged at 600 to 700 direct jobs. Factor in service and supply jobs and there could be as many as 1,000.
The project figures to spin off more than $100 million in subcontracts with brush clearing, access road building, work camp maintenance, and environmental and engineering work.