“Bighorn Mountain Resort seemed like an attractive investment at the time,” remarked Richard LeBlanc shortly after our introduction at the Canadian Hotel and Resort Investment Conference in Vancouver last month. The market was moving at a good clip, the location was just right for a recreational property and it looked to be a good opportunity to earn some interest.
However, in a too-familiar story for too many people over the last two or three years, the day came when 108 investors, including Richard LeBlanc, were informed that the Bighorn developers – and more importantly, their investment – were in a state of bankruptcy.
But this story has a happy ending with a twist, which is why I’m eager to share it.
Rather than walking away with their tails tucked between their legs embarrassed at an investment opportunity gone wrong, this gang of investors took matters into their own hands. Led by Richard LeBlanc, they forged ahead, pushing Bighorn into receivership in a move to take control and protect their investment rather than see a pitiful return on the worth of the land alone.
It took guts, it took brains, it took top-notch lawyers and it took a whole lot of commitment. It took the kind of effort you don’t normally see investors put in.
And it paid off. Our daring investors (they dared to invest again, after all) were awarded the property in March. What’s more, what they’ve gone on to create is worth talking about too.
Illustrating their true dedication to the project, Richard and the gang have set out to ensure Innoka Resort, as it’s now known, is worthy of their dollar and their heartache. The 20-unit, fractional ownership development must stand apart as a recreational property.
And it does. Innoka embraces First Nations hospitality and cultural components:
• The overall space and vision was designed by First Nations architect Wanda Dalla Costa.
• The inclusion of sacred materials such as sage planted near the entrances will cleanse the space of negative energies.
• Linens, cushions, draperies, wall hangings, etc. will be influenced by the traditional designs of the Nakoda peoples.
• First Nations artwork from the Canmore area and beyond will be incorporated throughout the resort.
• There are discussions about including an aboriginal healing centre and aboriginal activities and programs.
This isn’t just a matter of a token aboriginal mask here and there. This is a genuine example of bringing the past and the present together, and celebrating them both appropriately.
Happy ending? The investors triumphed and managed to make lemons into lemonade. Even better, they did so by collaborating with First Nation professionals and, respecting First Nations culture. This is an outstanding example of new market thinking. Well done.