Delegates from First Nations communities and business representatives got down to business at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre Tuesday
The event was Aboriginal Business Match 2013, designed to connect corporations and aboriginal leaders in a series of appointments.
“There is a great buzz in the air, the format works and we have some business deals already made that we will be announcing,” said Keith Henry, chair of the ABM of the ABM 2013 steering committee.
At last year’s ABM in Prince George there was more than $2 million in business done in three days. The hope for this year’s event, through Feb. 21, is to exceed that amount.
This time around, 130 BC First Nations and 140 companies were on hand. Over the course of the event there is expected to be more than 4,500 business match appointments, done in a style similar to speed dating, translating into more than 3,000 hours of targeted business development.
Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger was there to greet delegates and business people alike. The band also had a booth set up to introduce visitors to projects it is focused on,
“We are honored to co-host this exciting event in Penticton and Sylix territory,” he said. “We are hoping to find connections for aboriginal communities and other businesses and for the aboriginal communities to network on what is working well for them.
When it comes to economic development, it doesn’t matter what race you are.”
The PIB joined other exhibitors at the event and showcased its portfolio that includes the Arrowleaf project, a resort and housing development.
On Tuesday afternoon, the tradeshow floor was filled with people moving quickly from booth to booth.
Jeannie Cranmer, aboriginal education and employment strategy manager for BC hydro For Generations, said she found the speed dating approach very beneficial last year and was glad to be back.
“At most trade fairs you roam around. This allows you to put a face to a company which strengthens the relationship right off the bat and leads to increased business opportunities,” she said.
A highlight of the day was expected to be an appearance by CBC broadcaster Terry O’Reilly to present Changing the Conversation, a look at how negative perceptions can be changed.
“There is a perception that First Nations is not open for business, so my talk tonight will look at interesting stories on how other companies faced insurmountable marketing problems and were able to turn around,” he said.
Overall, he said, ABM is a great idea and his hope is it continues to grow.
Councillor Darryl Peters with Douglas First Nation was seeing that potential as he walked around the crowded room.
“This is a way to get word out about our 11 projects, see what opportunities are here and take it to the next step,” he said.