Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Big, fast growth for native biz group

Loan-approval spurt comes at anniversary

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Michelle Cameron of Dreamcatcher Promotions shows Premier Greg Selinger the firm's new computerized sewing machine.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Michelle Cameron of Dreamcatcher Promotions shows Premier Greg Selinger the firm's new computerized sewing machine. Photo Store

A last-minute flurry of loan approvals has pushed up the five-year results of the First Peoples Economic Growth Fund by close to 22 per cent just in the last few weeks.

The latest round of loan approvals totalling $3.1 million also bumped up the number of jobs created by 53 per cent over results from the end of March.

As of June 18, 2013 FPEGF has now approved 74 loans totalling $16.6 million creating 447 jobs and leveraging an additional $55 million into those businesses.

FPEGF was formed in 2008 with $20 million worth of funding from the province for five years.

It is a partnership between the province and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

The new loans have recently been approved by the fund's board of directors and letters of offer have been prepared and/or sent to the clients but they have not been finalized.

One of the new loans is for an Internet service provider that would service a large northern reserve.

Premier Greg Selinger was on hand at an event at Dreamcatcher Promotions on Monday recognizing FPEGF's first five years in business.

Dreamcatcher is a husband-and-wife business run by Dennis and Michelle Cameron that does custom embroidery for promotional items.

Its new loan from FPEGF helped it acquire a $15,000 automated embroidering machine that is using to create unique designs for a growing corporate and organizational client base.

Dennis Cameron said it also helped the business secure a storefront lease, buy inventory and create a marketing plan.

"That's key for us," he said. "We have lots of orders from First Nations organizations and we are going to be targeting the corporate sector and also government business."

Selinger's presence at the small event was a strong endorsement for the low-key fund that provides mostly interest-free loans to small and medium-sized enterprises owned by First Nations people.

"First Peoples Economic Growth Fund is blazing a new trail in opportunities for aboriginal people in Manitoba and that is exactly what we want," Selinger said.

"What the FPEGF is all about and why we support it so much is that it creates jobs and it creates jobs in communities that don't have jobs."

The fund is in the process of negotiating an extension to its financing agreement with the province.

Ian Cramer, the chief executive officer of FPEGF said there has been good word-of-mouth promotion of the fund and there are solid businesses out there in First Nations searching for financing.

"I am constantly impressed by the entrepreneurs we see who represent such a diverse range of viable businesses in Manitoba," Cramer said.

The hope is the success will breed success among business people from First Nations in Manitoba.

"This kind of success is infectious," Selinger said. "Others will pick up on it. Early entrepreneurs will become role models."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2013 B5

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Updated on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 7:27 AM CDT: replaces photo

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