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Robinson attends CEDF grand opening

A year and a week after the groundbreaking, Eric Robinson, acting minister of aboriginal and Northern affairs, was on hand May 28 as the Communities Economic Development Fund (CEDF) held a grand opening for its new $1.
Eric Robinson, acting minister of aboriginal and Northern affairs, stands next to a plaque honouring Oscar Lathlin, his predecessor in the portfolio, who died last Nov. 2.

A year and a week after the groundbreaking, Eric Robinson, acting minister of aboriginal and Northern affairs, was on hand May 28 as the Communities Economic Development Fund (CEDF) held a grand opening for its new $1.065-million headquarters at 5 Moak Cres. in Thompson.

The building cost $900,000; land costs were $90,000, while landscaping came to $75,000, for a total cost of $1.065 million. The project came in both on time and on budget, says Gord Wakeling, general manager and chief executive officer of the provincial Crown corporation.

The 4,000-sq.-ft. building is a wood frame construction stucco exterior building. The roofline is designed to hold snow in the winter to act as an insulator and save on heating costs. The majority of rooms have a south or west exposure to maximize natural light and the eve line is extended to reduce summer heat while maximizing light in the winter when the sun is lower.

CEDF actually had the building ready for occupancy within six months of its construction start last November and moved in before winter set in. The official grand opening was more than anything a matter of scheduling visits by cabinet ministers from Winnipeg. Robinson has been acting minister of aboriginal and Northern affairs, responsible for the CEDF, since the death of 61-year-old Oscar Lathlin last Nov. 2.?

Rosann Wowchuk, minister of agriculture, food and rural initiatives, was also on hand to announce a joint program with the federal government to "encourage the expansion of agriculture production and to increase the availability of locally produced healthy foods in Northern Manitoba," she said.

Under contract with Manitoba Agriculture, Food, and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI), the Communities Economic Development Fund delivers Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) programs in northeastern Manitoba?

"Throughout its history, CEDF has had a solid record of supporting Northerners developing businesses," Robinson said. "It is appropriate that it now has its own head office building in the North serving the North."

Before constructing its own building on Moak Crescent, CEDF rented space at 23 Station Rd. from the Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre. That space is still vacant.

The Communities Economic Development Fund, administered under the 1971 Communities Economic Development Fund Act, enjoys the distinction of being the only provincial Crown corporation with a head office in Northern Manitoba. Its original mandate was to "encourage the optimum economic development of remote and isolated communities within the Province of Manitoba.

In July 1991 the mandate of the CEDF was expanded with a revision to the act to make it "a lending authority in the fishing industry in the Province of Manitoba and to provide financial assistance to aboriginal people in the province outside the City of Winnipeg" and to administer the business and fisheries loan programs under the act. ?

The CEDF places an emphasis on the needs of small and medium enterprise as well as community development corporations.?CEDF is engaged in providing financing to Northern businesses and the commercial fishing industry. Its portfolio of $24 million in loans supplies over 1,300 businesses and individual harvesters, which in turn developed more than $74 million in revenue to the Northern economy as well as supporting more than 2,100 jobs, Wakeling says.?

Loan applications are reviewed by regional loans consultants who make recommendation to management. A management review committee reviews all recommendations. Loans under $50,000 can be approved at the management level; thereafter all loans must be approved by the board of directors. Loans in excess of $200,000 are further reviewed with Treasury Board prior to final approval.?In addition to its lending activity, the CEDF provides development services to regional communities through support to local leadership and community development corporations and is actively involved in developing economic development strategy for the region, he says.

The Communities Economic Development Fund has a staff of 16 with 10 employees at head office in Thompson and the remaining six in field offices in Gimli, Swan River, The Pas and Winnipeg.