Jonathan Saganash is the young, forward-thinking communications officer for the Cree Economic Enterprise Company (CREECO Inc.). He has big plans for the future of Eeyou Istchee but feels he’s up for the challenge.
Recently, Saganash represented CREECO Inc. at the ninth edition of the Secretariat to the Cree Nation Abitibi-Témiscamingue (SCNATEA) Business Exchange Day in Val-d’Or. He discussed how the experience was a grueling, yet rewarding one.
“It was kind of like speed dating,” he said in reference to the daylong series of 15-minute sessions. Non-Cree business owners would sit with Saganash, discuss potential business ideas, and exchange contact information. The end result will be worth it, according to him.
“It was very tiring, but it’s such an efficient way to network,” said Saganash. “It was remarkable how many companies I spoke to that day who CREECO Inc. had worked with before. It’s all about sharing the services and expertise, figuring out the needs of suppliers.”
Saganash sung the praises of SCNATEA for putting the day together. Through their program, he was able to deal with companies from far and wide for a diverse range of projects.
“There are people joining up with us for many different things,” Saganash said. “We clicked with a number of organizations, and it’s all done through the Secretariat.”
When speaking about the accomplishments of Eeyou Istchee entrepreneurs, he shows pride in what he feels the people have accomplished through hard work. A willingness to partner with non-Native businesses is a part of what he sees as a formula for success.
“The Cree people are here supporting each other as we always do,” said Saganash. “The wave of marketing created by the Quebec government has created a lot of traffic from non-Native businesses. But people here are not surprised because we have the expertise in the North to help manage those kinds of projects.”
Past work in hydroelectric projects around James Bay have been crucial to the development of a strong group of experienced workers. This could lead to some competition for future contracts when the Plan Nord starts ratcheting up.
“We’ve worked and learned a lot in the past 10 years, especially with Hydro-Québec,” Saganash said. “Some of the people working on those projects came back, used their expertise and started their own companies. There will be big contracts and we have to make sure that we team them up.”
Saganash also feels that the community is ready in the event of any future economic problems. Though there have been some losses due to the global recession, Saganash believes Eeyou Istchee will get through it because of one thing: standing together.
“The next wave of economic crisis is going to come,” he said. “Yes we are going to pay for this, and it’s happened before. But this time we didn’t keep our eggs in one basket. It will be tough but we’ll do like we always do. We Crees will stand together side-by-side in order to do great things.”