Co-op launches Indigenous gas bar program

Co-op is partnering with Indigenous communities and organizations to launch a new gas bar brand: Western Nations.

Operators of Western Nation gas bars will have access to building, training and management support

Western Nations gas bars are a partnership between Co-op and Indigenous communities in Western Canada. (FCL)

A new type of gas bar will be coming to roadsides and communities throughout Western Canada.

Co-op has partnered with Indigenous communities and organizations to launch the Western Nations gas bar brand.

Indigenous communities will be able to work with Co-op to build and run a local gas bar with Western Nations branding. They will also have access to grants, as well as building, training and management support. 

Cam Zimmer, communications and public relations manager at Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), says Western Nations is going to be a win-win for Co-op and Indigenous communities.

"To get off the ground, that's always the most difficult stage for any business," he said. "But we can offer support there.… And this expands the network that we supply fuel to as well, so of course there's a business opportunity in there for us." 

In development for 2 years

Tyler Case, assistant professor of management at the University of Saskatchewan, believes Western Nations has the makings of a strong partnership.

"Co-op has a longstanding history and brand in Western Canada," he said. "So creating a new brand that is collaborative with Indigenous stakeholders … seems like a unique, authentic way for Co-op to invest in communities."

The project has been in development for approximately two years. During that time, Zimmer says Co-op has been consulting with Indigenous communities and organizations throughout Western Canada to design a sustainable new program.

A major component of Western Nations that came out of the consultations is the community building assistance program. Zimmer says there's an opportunity to benefit communities in a meaningful way, beyond simply business. 

"There's a formula that's based on the volume [of fuel sales] the site would do," Zimmer said. "And based on that, every year our partners that are part of Western Nations would have a certain amount reallocated to them. And they can choose where and how to invest that in their communities."

'It's their business'

The funding would go toward community infrastructure, programming or events.

Indigenous communities who want to own a Western Nations gas bar can start the process by contacting Co-op.

"We will look for a good fit in terms of traffic and volume, all that good stuff," said Zimmer. "If  it looks like a good fit, they would qualify for the Western Nations program, and they would own that site. It's their business. They own it. 

"But what they would get from us is the brand, of course, and a lot of support."

Communities that already operate a gas bar under their own brand, or don't qualify for Western Nations, can still participate in Co-op's Indigenous gas bar program as Indigenous resellers. Indigenous resellers are also eligible for the community building assistance program.