Connecting Aboriginal communities with business opportunities

A conference connecting companies with Aboriginal communities is taking place in Saskatoon this week.
Participants of the Aboriginal Business Match in Saskatoon. (CBC)

A conference connecting companies with Aboriginal communities is taking place in Saskatoon this week. 

Aboriginal Business Match (ABM) is a chance for First Nations and Metis communities to network with the private sector to create business opportunities. 

Delegates create online company or community profiles. Software then helps match Aboriginal groups with businesses and 20-minute meetings are then set up. 

"Sometimes, it's getting the right person speaking to the decision maker, and that's the whole focus of this conference," said Monica Brunet, director of the Metis Economic Development Sector at the Clarence Campeau Development Fund. "To have all the decision makers together in the same room so that we can skip through all that stuff and get right down to business."

Creating opportunities

Darrell Balkwill, director of economic development at Whitecap Dakota First Nation, wants to diversify the community's businesses. 

"For us, it's difficult to start up a business from scratch. It's easier to partner with somebody that's got a track record, the expertise, the credibility, and that way we can take advantage of the opportunities sooner," he said.

It set up a business arm, Whitecap Industrial Services, to start up oilfield and mining support companies. It has already started a partnership with NCSG Crane and Heavy Haul earlier this year and is now offering crane services. 

"We want to diversify our economic opportunities, and it's hard to overlook the resource sector in Saskatchewan," he said. "There are lots of opportunities there. So, we want to diversify our investments and the employment opportunities for our members."

The four-day event, which began Monday at TCU Place, was held in the city for the first time. An ABM event took place in Pentiction, B.C., in February. 

Organizers said last year's ABM created more than $30-million in new business deals.