OLIVER, British Columbia – A true entrepreneur who has been changing attitudes while creating business prosperity for his community, Chief Clarence Louie has been named the first Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year award recipient for the Pacific region and also the first First Nations person to win an Ernst & Young award in British Columbia.
Louie, CEO of the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation, received the award at a gala event held Oct. 8 in Vancouver.
“The Social Entrepreneur of the Year category was a new addition this year and an important one in recognizing individuals who have demonstrated the foresight and commitment to enact social change, often by transforming traditional practices,” said Fred Withers, director of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards for the Pacific region. “By focusing his passion and energy on practical, innovative and market-oriented approaches to benefit his community, Chief Louie is pioneering sustainable business models that will have a profound impact on our society as a whole.”
In accepting the award, Louie said, “The Osoyoos Indian Band is very focused on a self-sufficient future, and we realize that we create this future making our own money and creating revenue-producing jobs. The single most important key to First Nation self-reliance is economic development. As the OIB businesses are all community-owned businesses, it is really an Osoyoos Indian Band award recognizing all past chiefs and councils and band members who supported business development.”
In February 1985, Louie became head of the OIB and immediately set in motion an economic development plan for their future.
Fuelled by a vision of self-reliance and entrepreneurship, the OIB has earned the distinction of having created more businesses per capita than any other First Nation in Canada. The 450-member band now runs 10 businesses, including the first aboriginal-owned winery in North America, vineyards, retail, construction and tourism. The band has generated more than $100 million of projects in the South Okanagan in the past eight years, investing revenues back into its community for education and social improvements.
In addition to overseeing the OIBDC, Louie spends a lot of time sharing his vision of self-reliance and entrepreneurshipwith community business groups and First Nations across North America, as well as advising the federal government on aboriginal economic development in his role as chair of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board.