Snuneymuxw First Nation’s arms-length economic group kicks off its second cut of Mount Benson forest this month with a half-million dollars in its pocket.

The Snuneymuxw Economic Development Group of Companies contracted out the sale of 40,000 cubic metres of its Mount Benson forest to Coastland Wood Industries, a Nanaimo-based veneer mill.

It’s also chosen A & K Timber company to handle logging operations.

It’s the first time two contracts were offered by the First Nation for forestry operations on its 877 hectares of Mount Benson land, acquired in a reconciliation agreement with the province in 2013.

The multimillion-dollar deal with Coastland involves a $500,000 deposit, as well as the offer of a scholarship for forestry-related education.

From the Coastland office overlooking the Nanaimo estuary, Erralyn Thomas, band councillor and president of the Snuneymuxw’s economic arm, said the contract touches on the needs of the community and is an opportunity to build relationships with neighbours.

The conditions of the bid were also creative and innovative, said Thomas, who uses the scholarship as an example.

“A tenet in our corporate strategy is our own logging company employed by 100 per cent Snuneymuxw,” she said. “It’s not going to be like that right away but this [scholarship] allows us to provide that training to them and then retain them as employees.”

Clint Parcher, Coastland’s vice-president of fibre supply, said it’s the first time there’s been a direct, business-to-business relationship with Snuneymuxw but there’s no better nation to be partnered with than its landlord and neighbour.

Coastland is a tenant of the nation and one of its largest employers.

“It just brings us that much closer together,” Parcher said. “We are a domestic producer and what’s important to me in this whole process is helping Snuneymuxw stand on their own two feet. I want to try and use this occasion to educate as much as I can to help Erralyn and her new company.”

The economic group manages the Mount Benson forest over the course of a decade as part of the agreement with the province. It’s also in the process of acquiring other Crown timber land.

Revenue to the company is expected to help with community development priorities, like housing and a gas station, as well as facilitate development on other properties.