Wood of Big 4 Motors said it was time that the dealership — in its current location for about 40 years — move to a larger site, and the Taza deal means the store will more than double its footprint.
The new dealership will be about 60,000 square feet (5,600 square metres) and have 45 service and detailing bays and a photo bay. “We will be EV-friendly,” Wood said.
While there are Indigenous-owned dealerships in Canada, it is rare for non-Native-owned stores to be located on reserve land.
Stellantis has confirmed that this is the first deal of this type for its dealer network in Canada; a non-Indigenous-owned Ford dealership is located in a First Nations industrial park in Fort McKay, Alta.
Wood is excited about the opportunities and predicts more dealers will be looking for space in the development.
“We’re privileged to be one of the first,” Wood said. “The potential of the area is fantastic.”
Both dealers intend to move their current staff to the new sites. When new positions become available, the stores will first reach out to qualified Tsuut’ina staff and introduce training programs.
“There are more positions than there are Tsuut’ina,” Starlight said. “It’s a question of connecting to qualified people.” There are also no hard rules on hiring Indigenous workers, he said.
Both stores will also have signs in English and the Tsuut’ina language.
The size of the dealers’ capital investment “speaks to the viability of the development plan,” Starlight said.
Neither dealer would discuss the cost of construction.
Ford and Stellantis executives would not comment on the project, although both dealers said their corporate executives were supportive.
Although hurdles have been no different from any other development, Starlight said, establishing the validity of the vision for it was paramount.
“We know Taza is always under scrutiny as an Indigenous project. But the more we enlighten people about the benefits ... the less it’s about being an Indigenous community.
“We see [Taza] as a regional growth,” Starlight said. “It’s ... an entire region cooperating to bring success.”