Aboriginal Business Match back in Penticton

Event helps First Nations get down to business with outside companies

It’s not unusual for Chief John Kruger to be excited about the economic prospects for the Penticton Indian Band; like all leaders, promoting his community goes with the job. But with the Aboriginal Business Match returning to Penticton for the second year in a row, he’s got even more to be excited about.

“It was such a success last year that it is going to be hosted back in Penticton again,” said Kruger. “It was the most successful aboriginal business conference in the history of the province that I have seen.”

The 2013 Penticton ABM was only the second event of its type put on by Raven Communications, yet it was responsible for $30 million in business connections between bands from across B.C. and private sector companies looking to do business with them.

“ABM 2013 received tremendous feedback from everyone who attended,” said Keith Henry, president of the B.C. Métis Federation and co-chair of the ABM 2014 B.C. steering committee. “It is the only event of its kind in Canada that surpasses expectations in every way: the quality of the businesses that attend, the number of First Nations prepared to meet with them, the fun and engaging networking activities, and the recognition from big players that this is the must-attend economic development conference of the year.”

Kruger, co-chair of the steering committee, said ABM was far from the typical style of convention where delegates go and listen to keynote speakers on how to develop businesses.

“Native communities want to do business right now,” said Kruger. “It really makes me feel good the communities are interested in stepping up for economic independence.”

ABM uses what’s been described as business speed dating.

Delegates develop e-profiles showcasing communities, opportunities and projects, services and products offered as well as those needed. Based on these e-profiles appointments are requested online and computer-matched to make the best connections.

Colleen Pennington, economic development officer for the City of Penticton, also said the event was an effective business generator.

“I think the event is particularly well-run. It is very focused on driving business connections,” she said, comparing it to conventions where meetings are made by chance on the trade show floor.

“I think it is a  tremendous opportunity for the PIB to showcase the new direction they want to go,” she said, adding that it benefits the city as well. “I am actually pretty excited they are hosting it in Penticton because it creates an enormous exposure for our community as well.”

The PIB is developing a track record of hosting successful conferences. Along with the ABM last year, they also hosted Gathering Our Voices, an aboriginal youth conference that drew some 2,000 delegates to the area. And in 2014, the PIB will also be the host community for the annual provincial Elders’ Gathering, expected to draw up to 4,000 delegates.

“Our elders, both in the community and Okanagan Nation, are pretty proud and pumped up to be hosting this one,” said Kruger.

ABM 2014 takes place at the Trade and Convention Centre from Feb. 24 to 26. The Elders’ Gathering takes place July 7 to 9.