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Business association aims to make Edmonton Aboriginal Business Capital of Canada

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By Paula E. Kirman Sweetgrass Writer EDMONTON







A non-profit, member-driven Aboriginal business association aimed at building and growing the Aboriginal business and professional community in Edmonton has emerged.

With the city boasting the second highest Aboriginal population in the country, there are over 37,000 Aboriginal people employed in the area. 

Aksis, Edmonton’s Aboriginal business and professional association, is the only one of its kind in central Alberta. Founded in 2013 and established in 2014, it is funded by the City of Edmonton and supported by professional and corporate memberships. 

“Aksis was formed to build an Aboriginal business and professional community in Edmonton with a vision to make Edmonton the Aboriginal Business Capital of Canada. This achievement will not only benefit the Aboriginal community and the regional economy, but will also showcase a unique and valuable feature of the city.” said President Debbie Houle. “Aboriginal business has been a driver of growth and development of the City of Edmonton from the inception of Fort Edmonton. The original fort was established to capitalize on opportunities for trade with the regional Aboriginal population.”  

Members of Aksis include Aboriginal businesses, non-Aboriginal businesses, Aboriginal students, and Aboriginal professionals such as West Energy, Marriott, APTN, Craftwood Flooring, Versa Scaffolding Systems Ltd., Norquest College, The Business Link, and Florida Proulx Professional Services.

“The potential for development of Edmonton’s Aboriginal business and professional sector will only be realized through public, private, and community collaboration in mutually supportive initiatives to remove the barriers to success in business for the Aboriginal community and nurture development of the Aboriginal business and professional sector,” said Houle.

To that end, the organization, whose motto is to “connect, collaborate and create,” undertakes a variety of monthly lunch-time and after-hours activities. And with future Aboriginal youth entrepreneurs in mind, Aksis hosts an annual Indian Summer Golf Tournament. Aksis also provides professional and entrepreneurial training, and arranges mentorship relationships between Aboriginal youth and employees.

The foundational governance structure of Aksis has been in the works since 2010, when the organization was first known as the Edmonton Aboriginal Business Professional Association. Core funding was secured from the city and the organization completed a branding strategy in its transition from EABPA to Aksis. Membership continues to grow and Aksis held its first golf tournament in September of 2014.

Aksis is currently seeking new members, and Houle encourages Aboriginal people living in Edmonton, who are thinking of starting a business, who already own a business, or are professionals, to join. Members are actively involved with the direction of Aksis.

“We continually seek input from our membership on their business and professional needs,” she said.