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This article was published 8/3/2019 (250 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Tribal Councils Investment Group was forced to sell off or close most of its $100-million enterprise five years ago, a new governance model and resolve emerged to keep the company going.
That new vision has now put the company on a positive trajectory.
On Friday, it announced the acquisition of Grand Medicine Health Services Ltd., an award-winning Winnipeg company that distributes prescription pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to 50 rural and remote communities throughout Manitoba, Nunavut and northwestern Ontario.
The 60-person company offers free prescription delivery to those remote communities and provides pharmaceutical support services for communities that do not have regular access to a pharmacy.
Heather Berthelette, the chief executive officer of TCIG, took over the company five years ago while it was in the process of selling off and winding down previously held companies under a growing cloud of allegations of shareholder oppression and mishandling of corporate funds.
For the past five to six years, TCIG has focused on a revival of its fortunes and a return to a vision of community support.
"Economic reconciliation is about changing the business model from one of dependence to one of participation," Berthelette said. "This is the core of our business model, enhanced by a commitment to support and sustain our communities."
Berthelette likes to refer to the concept of Indigenomics — the practice of bringing an Indigenous perspective to economic and social development.
"We are trying to build a business model here that reinvests back in the communities," she said.
In 2016, TCIG formed a new unit called the Spirit Group and partnered with a company that owned the Canadian manufacturing rights for a blood-glucose test meter. That product and accompanying diabetes awareness outreach efforts have proven to be a solid base from which to expand. Last year, TCIG also acquired the company that owned the manufacturing rights.
The addition of Grand Medicine will build on that process.
Gail Halko, director of operations for Grand Medicine, said the company has worked hard over the past 15 years to build an infrastructure by working with community leadership, local health directors and nurses and the First Nations and Inuit Health branch.
"We listened to what they needed and we created a system to meet those needs," Halko said. "We’re quite proud of what we have done and we’re happy to be finally represented by the communities we serve."
Through all of its former troubles, TCIG retained ownership in another venture called First Canadian Health Management Corp., a countrywide medical, dental and pharmaceutical claims-processing service for the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program of Health Canada. TCIG has operated it in partnership with another company since 1998.
It recently won another 10-year contract to deliver that health-benefit-claims business, which is manned by Indigenous staff out of Toronto and has continued to provide a financial underpinning for TCIG to reinvent itself.
Berthelette said, "We have used some of those proceeds to help finance and start the Spirit Group. We ran it lean and made smart, prudent business decisions, which led us to be in a position today where we are eligible for bank financing to acquire Grand Medicine."
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Chief Dennis Meeches, chairman of TCIG and chief of the Long Plains First Nation, said everyone involved is happy with the trajectory of the company now.
"During the difficult times TCIG went through, there were a lot of people who figured it would fold or dissolve or go away," he said. "But with a change in governance and in reaching out to our shareholders, we were able to prove them wrong."
Meeches is also a leader in efforts to redevelop Kapyong Barracks land, and he is bullish on ongoing Indigenous-led business developments.
"We believe strong Indigenous governance will lead to a stronger Canada," he said.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.