A Review Of The Lloydminster Economic Partnership Summit 2017

Serena Sjodin, Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce

Even though there was a first snow on the ground and the roads were a little hazardous, there still was a great turnout for this year’s Economic Partnership Summit, held at the Lloydminster Exhibition Grounds on October 12, 2017.

The morning started off with a grand entrance lead by dancers and singers, followed by all the dignitaries and sponsors. There was then an elders prayer followed by greetings from the City of Lloydminster by Mayor Gerald Aalbers. Representatives from Lakeland College and the Office of the Treaty Commissioner also gave opening remarks.

The format for this year’s event was changed up in hopes to make more successful business connections. The morning was dedicated to hearing from speakers who had experience in creating economic development in their communities. The afternoon was formatted to set up one on one meetings between potential business partners.

Zane Hansen, President & CEO of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, was first up. Zane gave an update on the incoming Lloydminster Casino and how SIGA works in the community. He explained the economic benefits of their project, not only for the City but for the neighbouring First Nations. The casino will provide employment opportunities, with great training and benefits and tourism traffic for the municipality.

The upcoming 40000 sq ft Lloydminster casino will include 250 slot machines, 8 table games, food and beverage services and a 6000 sq ft meeting room. It will employ 145 people. They strive for a clean, comfortable, and fun entertainment experience. It will be a regional destination, drawing customers from both Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Some important info from SIGA included:

  • They operate 6 casinos in the province, with the Lloydminster casino being the 7th and final one
  • SIGA is a non-profit organization, 100% of profits going back to stakeholders, government, First Nations and the communities they operate in, including responsible gaming promotion
  • Their operations are important to First Nation economic development in the province
  • Their properties generate $250 million in revenue
  • They strive to be community-minded, fully consulting with local First Nations and municipalities in developing new properties
  • They employ over 1700 people, 65% of employees are Indigenous, the highest percentage of Indigenous employees in the country. 45% of management are women
  • They pay good wages, have benefit plans and a leading customer service training program
  • Local economic benefits include municipal taxes paid through utility service agreements, procurement of goods and services from local suppliers, tourism dollars and money going back to local organizations through sponsorship programs

The Casino is expected to be open September 2018. They will be holding job fairs in 2018. Please visit http://www.siga.sk.ca for more information.

Next up was Shaun Soonias, Executive Director of the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic Development Network, who gave an inspiring presentation on the possibilities and effects of Indigenous business on the Saskatchewan economy.

The SFNEDN was created in 2012 to help encourage Indigenous inclusion in economic development. They work with First Nations businesses to raise their visibility in the community and encourage relationships to “build economies collectively.” They provide a platform for economic development practitioners to exchange information and assist in staying current with economic development strategies and emerging opportunities. They are an apolitical non-profit organization whose mission statement is “To promote and support the sustainable economic livelihood of Saskatchewan First Nation communities through building capacity, relationships, and knowledge”.

Some key takeaways from Shaun’s presentation:

  • Their strategic directions include research and advocacy, capacity building, networking, and communications.
  • There are some Indigenous businesses who are quite visible, but not all First Nations are that far along the path of economic development
  • Their capacity building will include access to base information and templates that will allow anyone entering into First Nations economic development to develop strategies and action plans to move toward business development. It will further expand to support understanding of how to develop projects and operate active businesses
  • Through promoting networking, they seek to develop an environment of peer-to-peer mentoring, create collisions between First Nations and industry and help align support organizations and economic development organizations with First Nations communities
  • There is a significant information deficit among First Nations economic developers. SFNEDN supports research focused on improving knowledge on key issues impacting First Nations economic developers.
  • SFNEDN will lever research efforts to inform advocacy priorities as it markets and promotes First Nations economic development in Saskatchewan to support widespread understanding of opportunities for industry and other stakeholders to engage First Nations businesses as partners and suppliers.
  • SFNEDN will promote First Nations success stories and achievements to enhance positive messages in coverage of First Nations issues.
  • They will continue to promote their events which help them further their economic development goals. These events include the World Indigenous Business Forum and their Partnerships Through Prosperity Conference Series
  • There is a sense of urgency in dealing with emerging issues including globalization, technology, labour, regulations and environmental concerns.
  • There is always a challenge in overcoming stereotypes and historical views
  • They encourage Indigenous people to come together over shared values, shared opportunities and shared challenges
  • Increased Indigenous economic development, including education and employment of Indigenous peoples, could represent up to $1 billion in economic benefit
  • As part of Reconciliation, Indigenous communities should consider creating Sovereign Wealth Funds, to have better control and protection of their money. Sovereign wealth funds are an opportunity to incorporate traditional values into wealth
  • Reconciliation also means “Preservation and revitalization of our languages, traditions, values, independence, sovereignty, standing in society, value in society, self-value, health of our children, family, community, region, province, country…world”
  • As the world moves into the “4th Industrial Revolution”, Indigenous people need to understand these changes in order to keep up.

For more information on the SFNEDN, please visit http://www.sfnedn.com.

After the coffee break, Darrell Carter, General Manager of Beretta Pipeline Construction gave some advice on how Indigenous businesses could move forward in collaborating with each other and Non-Indigenous businesses. He recounted how Beretta has grown as a company and how he has personally learned that “politics and business can work together to do good.”

More points from Darrell’s presentation:

  • In 2003 Onion Lake decided to get into the oil & gas industry and purchased Beretta Pipeline. Within a year Black Pearl purchased Beretta.
  • Started with 50% Indigenous employees, now has over 90%
  • Began with a single pipeline, but quickly diversified, now with 6 divisions including roads and lagoons.
  • Their diversification has helped during the economic downturn
  • Feels partnerships with other First Nations and other business can improve with continued trust building
  • Don’t overlook potential partnerships when looking to diversify
  • Onion Lake wants to open the door for other First Nations to show what they have done to be successful
  • Is looking to be a major employer in the Lloydminster region and to partner with others to build capacity for bigger projects
  • Social issues on First Nations need to be dealt with to encourage growth
  • Onion Lake is open for business!

Last up was Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, Chief of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, the largest First Nation in Saskatchewan and one of the largest in Canada. After addressing the crowd in Cree, Chief Tammy spoke about the group of companies that run under the banner of Kitsaki Management Limited Partnership, of which she is the President. She explained how the partnership got started, how they have grown and what the are looking to do in the future. Their goal is to “balance economic development and the environment” and to “create benefit for all stakeholders”. They are currently looking for new start-ups to create partnerships.

Some key points from the Chief Cook-Searson’s presentation:

  • Kitsaki started 35 years ago with just a handful of employees and little money. Today they are a major contributor to the Saskatchewan economy and participate in multiple industry sectors
  • Their success has been achieved without the benefit of oil, natural gas or treaty land entitlement dollars. It has been built on the strength of northern people, on strong alliances and a solid understanding of the value of human and natural resources. They also understand and prioritize the importance of the customer
  • Business is not a get rich quick process and companies need to understand the value of hard work
  • The profits from their endeavors go to debt repayment, the growth of existing business and new acquisitions. After that, they try to give back to their communities and their partners including housing, renovations, elder and youth programs, recreation and more
  • They pursue opportunities that meet their criteria for profitability, minimal risk, and Aboriginal employment and training
  • The management company works on behalf of 10,000 band members, many in six northern communities
  • When they started, there weren’t many models to base Indigenous economic development on. Now they provide advice to multiple Indigenous business development corporations
  • Maintaining a balance between development and its impacts is an important condition on their participation in a project
  • Some of the companies they manage include Northern Resource Trucking, Athabasca Catering, a brush-clearing operation, and are now working on establishing a power line development division. They also manage Canada North Environmental Services which is a recognized leader in environmental services. They also have a stake in March Consulting, a multi-discipline engineering company and with an eye on Saskatchewan’s resource sector formed their most recent venture, Kitsaki Procon Potash.
  • To remain diversified, they operate in the the financial sector with majority ownership in First Nations Insurance Serves LP and with an investment in the Dakota Dunes Golf Links.
  • They continually review existing interest to make sure they remain a good match with the group’s investment strategy. They are also on the lookout for new start-up ideas.
  • At any given time Kitsaki employs up to 1,000 full-time positions, 25% of whom are Lac La Ronge band members, with First Nation and Metis employees representing 70% of the total workforce.
  • Annual revenues are in the range of $120 to $180 million

In closing, Chief Cook-Searson wanted to give thanks for the opportunity to share Kitsaki’s story. She left the attendees some advice, “Have confidence, work hard, please your customers, be adaptive and always seek innovation. We also believe it is good to share success and to help others in our family and in our community – be generous!”

For more information on Kitsaki Management LP, please visit: http://www.kitsaki.com/

After lunch, the Business Connections meetings were set up and ready to go. This gave the attending businesses a chance to meet one-on-one to strike up conversations around future business partnerships. There were a lot of great conversations and meetings, so a success!

The Economic Partnership Summit is sponsored by the City of Lloydminster, Community Futures Lloydminster & Region, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, Husky Energy, MNP, Primco Dene Group of Companies, ATCO, Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Synergy Credit Union, Integra Engineering Ltd., and the Lloydminster Exhibition Association.

The Summit is presented in cooperation with the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce, Government of Alberta, Government of Saskatchewan, City of Lloydminster, Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Onion Lake First Nation, Lakeland College, Lloydminster Catholic School Division, Lloydminster Construction Association, and Little Pine Business Developments.

For more information on the Economic Partnership Summit, please visit: http://economicpartnership.ca Follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @epsummityll