Metlakatla Governing Councillor Robert Nelson Sr. welcomes the audience with a joke on April 26 at the Lester Centre during NABOC 2017. 380 delegates took part in this year’s business conference. Kevin Campbell photo.

Metlakatla Governing Councillor Robert Nelson Sr. welcomes the audience with a joke on April 26 at the Lester Centre during NABOC 2017. 380 delegates took part in this year’s business conference. Kevin Campbell photo.

NABOC 2017 attracts 380 delegates to Prince Rupert

Speakers from Bechtel, AltaGas, First Nations LNG Alliance entertain in conference linking the private sector with Coast Tsimshian Nations

Close to 400 delegates attended the latest National Aboriginal Business Conference (NABOC) in Prince Rupert this past April 25-27, and much of the focus was on both experience (some of it, Australian), and training. Keynote speaker Kevin Berg, general manager of central services for the Curtis Island LNG projects, near Gladstone in Queensland, Australia, and possessing more than 35 years of experience with Bechtel, outlined some of the opportunities and challenges that come with the simultaneous construction and operation of three different LNG facilities in the same area.

“His story was very interesting … it has some parallels with Prince Rupert,” said Geoff Greenwell, CEO of 2G Group, organizer of NABOC 2017.

Not only was LNG front and centre in discussions during the conference for delegates, but a greater focus was placed on training and employment opportunities. With so many companies looking to find local workers, many delegates and possible employees were able to be connected through networking events and exhibitor showcases.

“There are a couple different research projects that are finished now. Calculating the workforce needs of the LNG industry, as well as the types of work [is important]. There is a lot more focus now on people getting trained and prepared ahead of these big projects,” Greenwell said.

Coast Tsimshian leaders Chief Harold Leighton of Metlakatla and Mayor John Helin of Lax Kw’alaams, and their councillors and representatives, welcomed the 380-strong delegation to this year’s conference on April 26. Lax Kw’alaams deputy mayor Helen Johnson and Metlakatla governing councillor Robert Nelson Sr. both spoke to audiences shortly after breakfast last Wednesday and offered their best wishes from the traditional First Nations of the Tsimshian territory.

Johnson noted that not signing treaties, but by working in partnership with all those interested in doing business with Lax Kw’alaams, will be the way forward for the Band.

Nelson Sr. brought a lighthearted spirit and humourous demeanor to the opening remarks, telling delegates to just enjoy themselves and always smile, even when doing business.

It’s the seventh year for NABOC and Greenwell said organizers have found a smooth groove for the conference, operating out of the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, Lester Centre of the Arts and North Coast Convention Centre.

“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I think what’s most effective about the event is its cost-effectiveness. It’s very difficult for that many people to get that much access to that many people at the same time anywhere else. So for companies coming in, wanting to meet regional First Nations, everybody’s there,” said Greenwell, adding that the economic boost provided to Prince Rupert from the conference adds almost $600,000 to the area in just a few days.

“As always, we greatly appreciate the Coast Tsimshian hosting us, so thanks to Chief Harold Leighton and Mayor John Helin in particular, and the City of Prince Rupert and Mayor [Lee] Brain. They’re always willing to give their time and show up and show support. We greatly appreciate that,” Greenwell said.