Aboriginal business meeting a success
Low hanging clouds and snow might have slowed incoming flights at Penticton Airport, but by Tuesday, most of the delegates for the Aboriginal Business Match had made it to the conference.
Chief John Kruger of the Penticton Indian Band, which is hosting the event for the second year in a row, admitted that there weren’t as many people as expected at the Monday evening social event.
“The next day it was great. The weather seemed to co-operate and everybody got here that was supposed to be here,” said Kruger. He isn’t sure of the final number, but ABM organizers expected 350 delegates to attend the four-day conference, which focuses on connecting First Nations with businesses.
Colleen Pennington, economic development officer for the City of Penticton, said there was lots of networking still going on at the Monday meet and greet.
“This conference is thought of as such a tremendous place to connect in terms of all of the First Nations and being able to get to explain capabilities and services,” said Pennington.
“It was really interesting to see not only some of our local people, like Matt Kenyon, but the diversity of people coming just to participate in the event.”
Kruger,who is co-chair of the steering committee for the B.C. ABM, said it’s been a busy week, with days starting at 7 a.m. and making sure everyone is looked after.
“I just do what I can to answer their questions as much as possible, make sure they are happy and talk business with them,” said Kruger, who is expecting a report from the PIB’s economic development team after the conference, though he has already been told they are making lots of connections.
This is only the third ABM conference, but it has grown rapidly since the first took place in Prince George in 2012.
Last year’s conference generated an estimated $30 million of business deals.
“What we have done here is something that is very successful and something we are very proud of,” said Kruger, adding he was proud the PIB could be a part of the success for aboriginal business, First Nations communities and B.C. companies.
A second ABM conference will take place in Saskatchewan this spring, and Kruger, highlighting the success of the Penticton event, said he has been asked to attend that event in a support role.
“This is growing into something that I think is going to be huge. This is a new way of doing business,” said Kruger. ABM, he continued is a lot different from a typical business conference with a list of speakers and presentations.
“That is kind of boring, everyone knows about business. What this is about is making the connections,” said Kruger.
Though the business venture deals are important, Kruger said networking plays a big part in the activities, from First Nation to First Nation, to governments and even between businesses.
As an example, Kruger points out that other First Nations have noticed the PIB’s gravel business, Westhills Aggregate, and asked for advice on starting their own.
“It’s networking, helping them with their success,” said Kruger, noting that governments have come in and talked about the human resource potential.
“We are the fastest rising population in Canada. So there is a lot of planning going on there,” said Kruger. “Then there are companies going to other companies and saying, you are really doing great things with First Nations communities, can you help us?”
Kruger has also been getting good feedback from the delegates to this year’s ABM, though some are suggesting a different season.
“They love it and the only thing we have heard is that it should have been done in the summertime. I wish it was done in the summer myself, so we could really showcase the area,” he said.