Paula Sheppard, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) works at her desk inside NLOWE's offices in St. John's. NLOWE is one of a collection of groups working to see greater participation in industrial projects by local manufacturing, supply and service businesses. - Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram
According to Hebron Public Review Commissioner Miller Ayre, the more local suppliers working as subcontractors on the Hebron project the better.
In addition, Ayre called this week for the Hebron project partners, including ExxonMobil Canada, to find a way to be able to more clearly show their attempts to increase diversity within their local supplier base.
In his report on the multibillion-dollar project, released Tuesday, Ayre suggested the Hebron partners "prominently identify diversity eligible businesses" within their vendor database.
"By implementing a formal supplier diversity program, Hebron has an unprecedented opportunity to capitalize on the untapped potential of women-owned business to supply to this project, subsequently solidifying the project's goals of leaving a lasting legacy for the province," he stated.
The executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE), Paula Sheppard, applauded the Commissioner's report. Sheppard told The Telegram female-owned businesses tend to be smaller than their male-led counterparts and "focused on traditional sectors," but encouraging them to consider getting involved with large, industrial projects can directly benefit the local economy and open new doors for these businesses in the future.
As she stated in her presentation to the Commissioner, female-led businesses currently comprise less than five per cent of domestic and international suppliers to corporations and governments.
Sheppard said businesses capable of taking on supply and service work for large industrial projects are already up and running in Newfoundland and Labrador, offering everything from safety training to event management, custodial supplies and human resources services.
To that, NLOWE is actively working to assist businesses in expanding with supply work and export work, both through their Business Connections program and in daily meetings.
"There are a lot of things that are very straight forward that can seem very intimidating for a lot of businesses," she said.
"Some of these companies might feel held back by some of these things because they don't understand, what do you need? What is the process? What do you need to include in responding to an expression of interest?"
NLOWE's services are free and available to female-led businesses based in any part of the province.
Currently, there are no firm targets for how many of these businesses have to be involved in the Hebron project. Project partners have made a commitment to consider diversity in their suppliers, but it has been pointed out there are no solid numbers on how many female-led businesses are active in the province.
"I don't think that's an excuse not to set targets," Sheppard said Friday, while noting the commitments made.
She suggested the project leaders track and release diversity data on suppliers - providing a base for future construction projects to work with.
Outside of Hebron, Sheppard said more research is needed into supplier diversity and what increasing diversity in this area can do for individual projects and the province.
Meanwhile, following on the heels of the release of Ayre's report, the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association stated, "by issuing smaller bid packages that match the capabilities and capacity of local service and supply companies, small and medium-sized companies will be able to bid on work they can do."
Bob Tetford, chair of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters in Newfoundland and Labrador, has stated now is the time to see supply chain development programs in support of local companies.
"The provincial economy is the real winner anytime an initiative of this magnitude is undertaken," Tetford said.
"It is critical however that we leverage the existing strengths of our manufacturers and workforce, and address common challenges together to ensure the highest possible return on investment."