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Business association promotes Aboriginal ownership
With 113 full members and 153 associate members, the North-eastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association is having a mini-boom of its own within the geographical confines of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
“This past year we have really been picking up more memberships than usual,” said NAABA general manager Debbie Hahn from her office in Fort McMurray.
“We started 19 years ago thanks to the mind set of people like Dave Tuccaro,” said Hahn.
Tuccaro, a member of the Mikisew Cree Band, is founder, president and CEO of Tuccaro Inc. He was also instrumental in the setting up of NAABA where he served as its first president.
With a vision of “Aboriginal strength, unity and opportunity” and a mission of “Aboriginal business in partnership with industry; enhancing opportunities by supporting economic development of Aboriginal people in the Wood Buffalo region,” NAABA is, according to its website, “a non-profit organization that consists of a growing interest group of Aboriginal businesses, committed to enhancing and creating an environment, which promotes businesses, jobs, and training for the betterment of all native people in the region.” All full membership in the association must be at least 51 per cent Aboriginal ownership and local to the Wood Buffalo region. The area is vast, and includes Fort McMurray, Fort McKay, Fort Chipewyan, Anzac, Conklin, and Janvier.
“We are kind of the Chamber of Commerce for Aboriginal business in the municipality,” said Hahn.
“We have really strong support from industry and they promote our full members with the contractors coming in. As part of NAABA, they are required to hire Aboriginal companies that are able to do the work providing they can offer the services for a reasonable price and do the work in a timely fashion.”
Hahn added that NAABA holds four annual events that extend the social network with an annual Aboriginal Women in Business banquet (since 2009), NAABA golf tournament (1998), Business Showcase and Tradeshow (2008) and the annual general meeting.
“Our AGM usually has 500 people and sells out quickly,” said Hahn of the annual event which this past year featured 1968 Olympic gold medal winner in the 10,000 metre race, Billy Mills (Makata Taka Hela) as the guest speaker.
The 5th NAABA Business Showcase and Tradeshow were held in March, 2012 with 36 groups participating.
Along with the opportunity to showcase their services to industry and the general public, the annual event held a speed networking component where 12 Aboriginal companies (NAABA members) and 12 industry partners paired up and had five minutes of networking before moving to the next group.
“It’s kind of like speed dating,” said Hahn. “They get five minutes together and then get to talk to someone different each time.”
With a fulltime staff of five and one part-time, all female, NAABA is also focusing on small business within the Aboriginal community.
“Right now we are engaging the one-person companies a bit more, be it that they do beading or crafting, so we can help promote them and try to bring the cultural aspect back also,” said Hahn.
A mentoring program among NAABA members is also in the process which is part of NAABA supporting educational strategies.
“We value the relationships we have and people want to be involved with us. (NAABA) is successful and full of great people,” said Hahn.
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