Calgary

First Nations professionals connect with non-Indigenous employers at Calgary event

Close to 50 companies big and small have gathered at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino for a three-day event focused on connecting Indigenous professionals with business opportunities.

'We are going to be massive players in the economy across Canada'

Event organizer L. Maynard Harry, who goes by his traditional name Qwastanaya, says the Advanced Business Match at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino is a venue for economic reconciliation. (Émilie Vast/CBC)

Close to 50 companies big and small have gathered at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino for a three-day event focused on connecting Indigenous professionals with business opportunities.

The Advanced Business Match event, run in conjunction with Tsuut'ina Economic Development, follows similar events held around the country earlier this year.

Organizer L. Maynard Harry, who goes by his traditional name, Qwastanaya, said the event was an opportunity to reconcile First Nations economies with the larger Canadian economy.

"Is it difficult? Somewhat. But is it rewarding? Definitely," Harry said. "I think that First Nations are thirsting to develop their economies."

Harry said First Nations leaders are under a lot of pressure from their communities to bring local economic opportunity.

"We do have a lot of leverage [and] political capital. We have a lot of land — we're land rich and cash poor," he said. "But I think we've only scratched the surface. We are going to be massive players in the economy across Canada."

The Indigenous economy is valued at more than $30 billion and is expected within five years to reach $100 billion, according to a release.

"First Nations across Canada have been segregated from provincial, national, regional economies," Harry said. "But we're reconciling our economies. We're getting involved."

Calvin Reich with Aurora Helicopters says the event is an opportunity to become business partners with Indigenous leaders. (Émilie Vast/CBC)

Making connections

Advanced Business Match allowed attendees to select business matches online prior to attending the event.

Calvin Reich with Aurora Helicopters said he has attended a number of similar events over the past year.

"For us, it's a great way to connect with some of the First Nations and some of the Indigenous people that we don't always talk with, and discuss business on a one-on-one basis," he said. 

"Sitting down and talking face-to-face and doing business in a professional way is all part of that. It's all about respect. And becoming business partners."

The trade show will conclude Wednesday, though Harry said event facilitators would help to accommodate connections made into the future. 

With files from Émilie Vast

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