The Seekaskootch dancers from Onion Lake Cree First Nation helped to formally open the Economic Partnership Summit at the Wildrose Pavilion Oct. 12. From left are Jazara Littlewolf, Tanisha Pahtayken, Marcus Pahtayken, Darcy Whitstone and Donny Littlewolf. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO
The fifth annual Economic Partnership brought together about 160 Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses delegates in Lloydminster with a let’s make a deal concept.
The event held at the Wildrose Pavilion on Oct. 12 featured successful partnership stories and a new business connections portion to facilitate networking and one-on-one deal making.
“The importance of the summit is bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses together to look at ways they can work together to partner,” said Serena Sjodin, executive director of the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce, one of the sponsors.
“We believe our economies can grow and prosper if we work together and form solid partnerships.”
Rhett Sangster from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner in Saskatoon, one of two MCs, told the audience the event was an exercise in economic reconciliation.
That’s the approach that Jon Rokochy, owner of Assure Occupational Testing in Lloydminster was taking at the summit.
“I’m looking forward to connecting to other businesses here in Lloydminster and specifically connecting with the native companies,” he said.
“We have a good working relationship with a number of other Aboriginal companies in the area and we’re just looking to expand that.”
Assure offers occupational services such as drug and alcohol testing, audio testing and mask fitting and is hoping to connect with First Nation oil and gas companies who need the services to adhere to occupational health and safety standards.
“So we would look to work with them to ensure the safety of their workers,” said Rokochy.
Seven Lakes Oilfield Services and Primco Dene, owned by several First Nations in Cold Lake were hoping to expand their businesses in the Lloydminster area at the summit.
“That’s what brought us down from the Lakeland Region,” said Shane Freeson, business development rep for both companies.
“We thought we’d come down today and meet people and try to expand with our existing partners.”
Freeson said Seven Lakes has a scaffolding division that he is shopping around for work.
“There’s a lot of construction in Lloyd with the upgrader and the refinery and other projects, so we’re looking to get into that piece of work,” said Freeson who was a former district manager with Husky in Lloydminster.
The summit was an opportunity for Darrell Carter, general manager of Beretta Pipeline Construction LP to accomplish several goals.
Generally speaking he said, “What we hope to accomplish is, I guess enlighten everybody on the vast amount of knowledge and skills available within the First Nations.”
As one of the summit speakers, he also shared some of the ups and downs of the company that he has helped to turnaround the past few years using his experience as an oil and gas veteran to rebuild it and make it profitable.
Beretta Pipeline was purchased outright by Onion Lake in 2003, but ran into financial troubles that Carter was hired to correct with his four year plan.
“We’ve diversified in the last half dozen years from being a standalone pipeline company to about half a dozen divisions,” he said.
“We had to diversify; that was the only way for us to survive and it seems to have worked.”
He said aside from a hiccup in 2016 when they lost money, Beretta expects to generate about $17 million in revenue this year and is on track to make a net profit.
“The company is probably worth $13 million this year,” said Carter who noted crews are busier this year as the economy slowly turns around.
“Right now, we’re doing some infrastructure work on a $7 million contract in Battleford area,” he said.
BlackPearl Resources is also generating all kinds of work for Beretta at Onion Lake with the phase 2 expansion of their thermal heavy oil facility.
“Onion Lake has always been open for business and growing it’s companies,” said Carter.
About 85 per cent of Beretta employees are members of First Nations from as far away as New Brunswick and Alaska and in Western Canada from Manitoba to British Columbia.
The summit was also provided with an update on the Lloydminster casino by speaker Zane Hansen, CEO of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority that will operate it.
The keynote speaker was Tammy Cook-Searson chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian band who spoke about the Indigenous businesses she oversees through the Kitsaki Management LP.