Chief Jonathan Kruger of the Penticton Indian Band couldn’t be happier with the success of the Aboriginal Business Match conference co-hosted by the PIB last month.
“We showcased the Penticton Indian Band and the Penticton Indian band Development Corporation. I think we impressed a lot of people, all the First Nation and business leaders that were there,” said Kruger, noting that there were 140 businesses and 130 First Nations representatives from communities around B.C. at the conference, engaging with each other in business and networking.
Kruger said this conference was bigger than the first ABM last year, where some $2 million in deals were made.
“It was just an amazing long week. It felt like we went from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. for three days straight. Everyone seemed exhausted by the time it was over,” said Kruger, adding that ABM was more engaging than a typical business conference. Rather than having to listen to people giving speeches, participants in the conference were able to connect one-to-one, not only with businesses but each other to share information and ideas.
“Several First Nations came together to discuss their experiences were with land leasing, big box stores and tourism, even ecotourism for some areas.
“It was just endless, so many things went on,” said Kruger. He admits to being surprised by the range of businesses and services attending the conference.
“There were services from businesses that are right here in the Okanagan that the Penticton Indian Band didn’t know about, like McElhanney (McElhanney Associates Land Surveying Ltd). I always thought they were land surveyors but they have an engineering department,” said Kruger. “So they were there marketing themselves as engineers as well as the great work they do with the mapping. There were just so many businesses there, it was exciting.”
In addition to co-hosting ABM with Raven Communications, Kruger said the PIB made a number of connections for themselves.
“We’ve networked with some great business people that we may be looking at in the future for some joint ventures,” said Kruger, adding that this was just a first engagement. We are going to follow up with a number of companies to see where it goes. That’s the exciting part.”
Kruger has already made overtures to co-host the conference again in Penticton, though he would like to see it happen in a warmer month.
He’s not alone in wanting to see it return; Mayor Dan Ashton, who also spent time at the conference was also impressed with the scope and would like to see another ABM at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.
Ashton described the ABM as a who’s who of opportunities, not only for the PIB, but the all the bands that attended.
“Many more of these bands are becoming more proactive and realizing they have great opportunities,” said Ashton, adding that ABM was a great way to access those opportunities. “It’s a one stop shop; you can go there and you get the access to the powers that be, not only at the band level but at a business level.”