An independent study by AECOM, commissioned by the Secretariat to the Cree Nation Abitibi-Témiscamingue Economic Alliance (SAENCAT), shows that the Secretariat’s signature event, the Business Exchange Day held annually in Val-d’Or, has led to a significant number of contracts.

An organization founded to encourage “harmonious development of the Cree Nation and the Abitibi-Témiscamingue regions,” SAENCAT organizes the annual Business Exchange Day to “unite the businesses of the Cree Nation and those of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Lebel-sur-Quévillon and Matagami regions.” Partnered with a number of municipalities (including Val-d’Or, Amos and Rouyn-Noranda) and chambers of commerce, along with the Cree Nation, and the province of Quebec, SAENCAT says it is successfully “[contributing] to the development of the North” and provides the results of the survey as evidence of that fact.

SAENCAT Director of Operations Chantal Hamelin said, “Because we already know that Business Exchange Day is a good event and that there’s a lot of benefits that come out of it, we [commissioned this study] to show that to our partners and have a document that really shows the exact numbers for the benefits of the Exchange Day. Everybody says it’s a good event and that results in building contracts. We wanted to have an estimate of the value of the contracts, because we knew that this event was helping to strengthen business relationships between Crees and Abitibi-Témiscamingue region. We decided to make the study public because it’s working proof that Exchange Day benefits the Crees and the businesses from this region.”

The study’s most startling number is the dollar value in business transactions arranged through Exchange Day. Specifically, those who participated in the Business Exchange Day held in December 2011 were asked what total value of contracts and agreements had come about as of August 2012 as a result of the event: respondents reported that over $19 million in trade came directly from the 2011 Exchange Day. More impressively, however, participants estimated that based on contracts in the works for 2013, these relationships would total over $111 million.

Participants in the event from the Cree Nation consisted principally of construction-related enterprises, followed by band councils and development agencies. Those from the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region were more varied, representing professional, scientific and technical services; construction companies; mining and forestry businesses; wholesalers; and development agencies.

According to the study, the Exchange Day resulted in new training for personnel for 73% of the Cree Nation organizations who attended the event, and generated new jobs at 46% of the attending businesses from the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.

“These were very strong results for us,” said Hamelin. “We found that people were very happy to be interviewed for this study, because they liked the event and will be coming back. They want it to continue. And we can see that by the number of people participating every year. We are now seeing more and more Inuit participating, along with Crees from northern Quebec, as well as Algonquins and Innu from eastern Quebec and Labrador. It is beginning to go beyond the region and the Cree Nation. The event is open to all First Nations that want to do business with people from the [Abitibi-Témiscamingue] region.”

The press release from SAENCAT emphasized that economic development in both the communities of the Cree Nation and of the regions of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Lebel-sur-Quévillon and Matagami is continually growing.

“The prospects of developing relationships between businesses from the regions and the Cree communities are very promising,” states the press release, “and clearly indicative of significant economic growth in the years to come.”

Hamelin said this devlopment will multiply economic opportunities.

“We’re creating training and employment,” she said, “because of the contracts [resulting from Business Exchange Day], and we’re creating wealth – which is creating spin-off effects in these communities.”