Pimee exemplifies the Native entrepreneurial spirit

Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre provided the backdrop for the 10th annual Alberta Business Awards of Distinction gala on Feb. 27. More than 800 Alberta business people honored their own at the academy awards-style function hosted by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.

Pimee Well Servicing Ltd., with its head office on the Kehewin Cree Nation at Bonnyville, beat out such tough competition as Peace Hills Trust, owned by Samson Cree nation of Hobbema, and RKM Logging Ltd. of High Level for the coveted Eagle Feather Business Award of Distinction in the category of Aboriginal-owned business.

The Eagle Feather Business Award is given to a First Nations-owned business that has demonstrated outstanding achievement through the incorporation of entrepreneurial and cultural concepts into its operation for long-term success.

At th9e midpoint of the awards gala, the Moving Spirit First Nations Drummers and Dancers of Edmonton set the stage for the Aboriginal segment of the awards.

Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Robert Nault presented the Eagle Feather Business Award of Distinction to representatives of Pimee Well Servicing Ltd.

Accepting the award on behalf of four of its owner-communities were Chief Eric Gadwa of Kehewin First Nation, Chief Thomas Abraham of Frog Lake, Chief John Shirt of Saddle Lake, Chief Morris Monias of Heart Lake, Pimee Well Servicing Ltd.’s manager Tim Schultz, and assistant manager Eugene Badger.

Pimee, which means oil in Cree, is a bona fide success story. Jointly owned by six northern Alberta First Nations, Goodfish Lake and Beaver Lake being the other two, Pimee Well Servicing Ltd. opened for business in 1984 with one oil well service rig and three Aboriginal employees out of a total work force of six. Three years later, it purchased a second rig, and in 1990 it added Ty-ad Oilfield Services, a five-truck oilfield maintenance company.

In 1996 and again in 1997, Pimee Well Servicing Ltd. purchased its third and fourth service rigs respectively. In 1998 the company acquired another venture – Tarsands Steam Cleaning of Elk Point Alberta, adding more highly trained oil well servicing personnel and specialized equipment.

Pimee is branching out to become a leader in the oil well servicing sector in northern Alberta. The company is a member of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (COADC). Operating manager Tim Schultz said that the company is continually looking to expand the business with new oil rigs and other ventures. Integration of its recent acquisitions into the company’s daily operations demonstrates Pimee Well Servicing Ltd.’s commitment to expansion and sustained growth.

Most of Pimee’s employees have been with the company for at least four years, many for more than 12. This seasoned workforce, coupled with an aggressive business strategy, has permitted the company to weather slow downs in the notoriously volatile oil well servicing business where firm closures are a relatively common occurrence. In fact, Pimee actually experienced growth during the 1998 period of low oil prices, a time when many Alberta oil patch firms were forced to scale back their operations.

With the addition of 20 full-time jobs in the past four years, Pimee Well Servicing Ltd. now has a workforce of more than 50, 95 per cent of which is Aboriginal. The company remains under 100 per cent Native ownership. Success in business allows it to pursue community goals of increased Aboriginal employment in the oil well services sector. Pimee has now begun to attract the attention of many children of employees. The oil patch is an essential Albertan area of employment and Pimee Well Servicing Ltd. has proven that First Nations-owned business staffed by Aboriginal employees are second to none in the well servicing sector.

Pimee Well Servicing Ltd. takes its community role seriously. In addition to introducing many young Aboriginal workers to careers in the oil patch, the company also makes generous contrbutions to local events and powwows sponsored by the six First Nations that own the company.

Elizabeth Booha, regional co-ordinator of the Aboriginal Workforce Participation Initiative (AWPI) for Indian and Northern Affairs, Alberta Region, helped develop the selection criteria for the award. Judges included representatives of the Bank of Montreal, the Alberta Aboriginal Investment Corporation and Edmonton’s radio station The Bear.

Booha was impressed with the way Pimee works within the cultural values and traditions of northern Alberta First Nations. She found Pimee’s workers to be exceptionally devoted, loyal and motivated team players and it is not surprising that employee turnover is exceptionally low.

“The Pimee experience in business represents the essence of success and the company is a worthy recipient of this year’s Eagle Feather Award for First Nations owned business,” said Booha. She also had high praise for the company’s unique mentoring system that has seen Kehewin First Nation’s Eugene Badger become an indispensable part of the management of Pimee Well Servicing.

The Awards recognize excellence in all areas of the Alberta economy – areas as diverse as small business and e-business to environmental practices and strategic partnering. In all, there are 12 awards categories plus the prestigious Premier’s Award of Distinction.

Two categories honor Aboriginal achievement in business: one is the award Pimee got; the other is the Best Practice Award of Distinction for Aboriginal Relations.

Each category is sponsored by a different private- or public-sector sponsor. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada sponsored the Aboriginal-owned business category, while INAC and the Aboriginal Workforce Participation Initiative (AWPI) sponsored the Aboriginal Relations award. (The winner of the Best Practice Award of Distinction for Aboriginal Relations was Flint Energy Services Ltd. of Sherwood Park.)

The solid field of competitors at the Alberta Business Awards of Distintion gala was matched by a prestigious array of sponsors, including Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Alberta Economic Development, Alberta Human Resources and Employment, Aboriginal Workforce Participation Initiative, AVAC, Canadian National, CIBC, EPCOR, TELUS, University of Alberta, Western Economic Diversification, Workers’ Compensation Board ? Alberta, Zoom Communications/Jet Stream Media Inc., the Edmonton Sun and the Calgary Sun.

Congratulations go to Pimee Well Servicing Ltd. for winning the Alberta Chambers of Commerce Eagle Feather Business Award of Distinction as Alberta’s best First Nation-owned business.

Chris Reading, Sweetgrass Writer, Bonnyville

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