Construction costs rise to $10 million for Skidegate Co-op

Haida Gwaii Co-op hit a new sales record in 2017

Construction costs for the new Skidegate Co-op store have hit a $4-million bump.

That is how much more the Haida Gwaii Co-op needs to borrow for a new, larger Skidegate store after the project went to bid at $6 million and found no takers at that price.

Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a $6-million loan for the new store last May, but they will have to vote again and raise the loan to $10 million for the project to go ahead.

Special votes will be held at a series of Co-op member meetings later this month.

“Due to our location, contractors are reluctant to come to our island, and for that we pay a premium price,” said Bob Isaacs, board president of the Haida Gwaii Consumers Co-operative Association.

“Should the membership decide not to proceed with funding, they will need to understand there will be a price for not moving ahead,” Isaacs added, noting that the current Skidegate store is undersized and needs major fridge upgrades.

“If we do not move forward, we open the door to other food competitors, which will negatively impact our co-operative.”

Isaacs said an updated feasibility study shows that even at a cost of $10 million, the new Skidegate store is expected to generate strong enough returns that it will qualify for a $2-million grant from Federated Co-operatives Limited once it opens.

While the floor plan will remain the same — the new store will be about 16,000 square feet, twice the size of the existing one — Isaacs said the Co-op will trim some costs on materials and exterior decoration.

Len Labossiere, the new general manager for the Haida Gwaii Co-op, said so long as the loan is approved, shovels should hit the ground in March and the new store will open in early 2019.

“When the funding’s there, we need to be ready to move,” he said.

Door prizes are among the many good reasons to attend the AGM. Here, Harold White receives an “I Love Local” gift basket — the top prize was a return flight for two to Vancouver.(Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Building costs aren’t the only thing on the rise for the Haida Gwaii Co-op.

Sales figures presented at the Jan. 28 annual general meeting in Masset show the Co-op’s three Haida Gwaii stores did a record $15.2 million last fiscal year, up $1.2 million from the year before.

Sales rose 10 per cent at the Skidegate food store, eight per cent at the Masset food store, and 6.2 per cent at the Masset home and building supply. The annual allocation for Haida Gwaii Co-op members will be 2.5 per cent this year, with a total cash payout of $367,192 shared among nearly 3,800 members.

“I think those numbers are extremely positive, and obviously indicative of Haida Gwaii and its global recognition,” Labossiere said.

“We’re becoming more and more known, and getting some tourism — it’s nice to see some growth.”

Renovations over the last year include new siding and a new storage area for the Masset home and building supply, as well as new, high-efficiency fridges for the Masset food store.

Like the Masset food store, Labossiere said the new store in Skidegate will use similar fridges and heat pumps that are well suited to Haida Gwaii’s temperate climate. It will also have heat-reclaim coils that will recycle heat from the store refrigerators and LED lights.

About 60 staff are working with the Haida Gwaii Co-op this winter, Labossiere said, and another 10 will be hired in summer when stores are open longer. The new Skidegate store is expected to require 13 new staff members.

At the AGM, Labossiere and others congratulated David Adams, who recently retired after 28 years, and several long-serving staff members including Mary Frick, who is celebrating her 30th year working with the Co-op.

“We’ve got lots of great people, so I don’t want to pick on Mary,” Labossiere said. “But as you shop our stores, Mary’s personality, Mary’s service are what we as an organization all strive for.”

Also at the meeting was Doug Potentier, a board director with the Federated Co-operatives Limited — the larger, Saskatoon-based co-operative that the Haida Gwaii Co-op is part of, along with 189 other food, fuel, agriculture, and building supply stores across Canada’s four western provinces.

Potentier said FCL had a strong year too, with sales rising to $9.8 billion from $8.4 billion, thanks in part to a turnaround in its Saskatchewan oil production and refining business. FCL profits for the year totalled $575 million, and from that, the Haida Gwaii Co-op received a patronage refund of just over $300,000.

Besides the patronage increase, Potentier noted that FCL has increased its Community Spaces budget from $1.5 to $2 million. The program offers one-time grants of $25,000 to $150,000 for local non-profits and charities.

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