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Economic Partnership Summit brings business opportunities to First Nations

A conference in Lloydminster is looking to build connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses. The Economic Partnership Summit was held at the Exhibition Centre on October 3 and brought business leaders and Indigenous leaders to discuss partnerships and opportunities between the two.

Milton Tootoosis, Co-chair of the summit, says First Nations are in a good position to bring capital to any investment with resources like land claims.

“There are tremendous opportunities in the procurement space and as First Nations, we need to know what goods and services are in demand and where the greatest opportunities lie so we can align our business plans and strategies accordingly.”

One of the keynote speakers included former chief of Fort McKay First Nation, Jim Boucher, who talked about the challenges and successes of the oil and gas sector. Boucher also told the story of being the only First Nations member at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Fort McMurray and how things have changed.

“We may be a little behind the trend compared to Fort McMurray. I know there’s been tremendous successful Indigenous entrepreneurs and Nations in that area. So, I think we’re a little behind the eight ball but it’s never too late.”

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Tootoosis says businesses like the Gold Horse Casino is a step in the right direction and will help bring more businesses to partner with the Indigenous community.

Tootoosis says business and interest in the economy is rapidly growing among younger Indigenous people. He says the summit brings in businesses and First Nations leaders from across both provinces including those as far as Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.

“I think I heard from one of the organizers that the registration of delegates from the business community in general increased by almost 50 per cent over last year. So that’s encouraging and tells us there’s an interest by the non-Indigenous business community.”

Tootoosis says while the increase in registrations is wonderful, the success of the summit comes down to how many partnership agreements and work contracts are signed among those attending.

This is the seventh Economic Partnership Summit and Tootoosis hopes for it to continue growing and wants to have 500 delegates in Lloydminster within the next 10 years.

“It truly is a western regional event and has the potential to expand to maybe someday be a national event as well.”

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