The Rise Air Booth at the Indigenous Business Gathering. Courtesy of Facebook.

Saskatchewan’s second annual Indigenous business gathering, the largest Indigenous economic development event in the province, brought together workers, business owners and experts in every sector from construction to consulting, mining to metalworking, fisheries to finance.

Tuesday’s event, hosted by the ministry of trade and export development, included 80 trade show booths featuring businesses and organizations from across the province.

It was “almost like a reunion,” said Carol Crowe, representing Creative Fire consulting agency.

“I get to visit with all the people I haven’t seen in forever, and get to know about some of the successes that are happening,” she said. “It’s a chance to reach out and build some business relationships. We want to see what else is going on out there, and keep those connections going.”

Kim Brenneis, director of community and Indigenous engagement for Enbridge Pipelines, gave the keynote speech.

As he looked around the conference hall, seeing over 500 people gathered to learn about and celebrate Indigenous business success, he said the event is a sign of “how far we’re coming, and how far we need to go on economic reconciliation.”

He looks forward to more events like this in future years, when even more companies can come and share their success stories, he said.

“It’s great to see the capacity in the communities, the businesses (and) their partners. It’s growing, and Enbridge wants to help participate with those businesses and help them grow and expand.”

Dan Gold, director of communications and stakeholder relations for Rise Air, said the gathering is a chance for people to learn more about the airline.

“This event has really stood out, since we are 100 per cent Indigenous owned, which I’m still surprised many people within the business community don’t realize,” said Gold. “And we are very keen to use this event to meet people who could potentially come to work for us. There are lots of opportunities in different areas of aviation and ground services at our bases across Saskatchewan.”

Rebecca Kragnes, director of Indigenous relations and community engagement with 2 Nations Bird construction, also hoped to find new employees at the trade show.

“We’re always looking for talent, especially skilled trades talent,” she said.

This event leaves her feeling optimistic about the state of Indigenous businesses — and the opportunity for more growth and innovation — in the province, she added.

“It’s awesome. This is the place to be, to learn and find out how we can work together. And I think there is so much opportunity for Indigenous businesses to thrive in Saskatchewan right now. There’s a lot of work coming up. So this is a great place to meet people and network.”

Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said events like this can lead to exciting opportunities.

“Saskatchewan is fortunate to have a number of very successful Indigenous companies and organizations that are strong contributors to our province’s economic growth,” he said.

By: Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix