NAABA launches pilot program encouraging growth of Indigenous businesses

·2 min read

The Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association (NAABA) is launching a shared services pilot program to support local Indigenous-run businesses. The services offered will include marketing and communications, human resources, bookkeeping, strategic planning and grant writing support.

The pilot program is expected to launch in January after consultation with NAABA members. NAABA executive director Michelle Toner said in an interview that Indigenous-led businesses are facing the same challenges as other non-Indigenous businesses.

NAABA had more than 250 members last year and is renewing members for 2021. Many members are in the service industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the April 2020 flood and low oil prices.

“Lots of contracts were cut and there’s been a lack of work, which means no work, no employees and really limited resources to be able to conduct a business,” said Toner.

“We’re trying to find out what are the challenges that our businesses are facing right now through this engagement, to really understand how everybody is being impacted differently from the current economic situation.”

Toner was on the Business Recovery Task Force in 2020 coordinated by Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism (FMWBEDT). That task force came up with the idea for the pilot program.

“We really thought that being able to provide some administrative or business services to support some of our smaller businesses would be an endeavour that would be impactful to our members and we went from there,” said Toner.

The pilot will run until 2023 and transition into a long-term program in 2024. The pilot phase is funded by FMWBEDT and grants from the federal and provincial government.

“We need to know where their barriers are,” said Toner. “And that is something that is important to the organization, because it’s about growing the capacity and the impact of Indigenous business and Indigenous-owned business in our region.”

Scott McLean, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today

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