As outgoing Chair of the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the past year, which has included some exciting growth and change for our organization. This year, I look forward in taking on the role of Past-Chair and to a year that is full of events, initiatives, and partnerships as we continue to build and strengthen our support to our members and the Manitoba Indigenous business community.
When I joined the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce in 2018, we were very much an operational board, comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous board members passionate about and dedicated to giving their time to promote the Indigenous business community and advocating for changes that will support the growth of the Indigenous economy. While like many other businesses and organizations, our efforts were challenged by the pandemic, we continued to work hard and plan for a better future. In November of 2022, our board gathered to develop a 5-year strategic plan and we would like to extend our thanks to Kristen Everett and the First Peoples Economic Growth Fund who supported our planning process. In late 2022, we also welcomed Taylor McCaffrey as our first Chamber Leader supporter, and we look forward to adding more Chamber Leaders in the coming years.
In January of 2023 we hired our General Manager, Rhonda Forgues, and in February and March 2023, we partnered with the Indigenous Professionals Association of Canada to take on some interns to support our work in communications, membership, and events. This additional capacity has enabled the ICC to enhance our communications with our membership by updating our website, the return of our newsletter, as well as kicking up our social media interaction significantly resulting in large scale engagement. In May 2023, in partnership with the University of Winnipeg and MITACS, we also created a research hub with Indigenous Masters students. The Indigenous Chamber of Commerce is proud to provide valuable experiences to Indigenous youth as they prepare for their future careers.
In April 2023, we were extremely excited to bring back a robust events schedule, beginning with a partnership with the Brandon Chamber of Commerce to host a luncheon featuring Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gilligham’s first 100 days in office. We were also thrilled to bring back our annual Gala that we paired with a business symposium focussing on successful partnerships and joint ventures. These events were a great success, and featured inspiring speakers including Lisa Meeches, Dennis Meeches, AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, Robert Wavey and Neegan Sinclair. Over 260 people attended these events at the Royal Bank Convention Centre, and we are grateful to our sponsors and thank everyone who made it out to support us. Later this spring we also partnered with the WEKH (Women’s Entrepreneurial Hub) to host Celebrate Indigenous Women in Business at the Red River College Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, which profiled Indigenous women in every aspect of the event. The Board has an exciting year planned with more events, more opportunities for networking, and learning that will to continue to grow and strengthen the ICC.
For the past number of years, the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce was co-located with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce at 259 Portage Avenue. When the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce announced their move to a new location, it presented an opportunity for the ICC to find our own space. We were very excited this spring to open the doors to our new office at 428 Portage Avenue and are proud that the ICC will continue to be a part of Downtown Winnipeg. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce for their support over the last few years. Both the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and Centerport Canada supported our move with furniture and equipment for our new space. Meegwetch!
It is important for ICC to be out and about in the community to establish and strengthen relationships. , Our board and staff participated and represented the ICC throughout the year, including at many events celebrating and promoting Indigenous businesses and their impact on the Manitoba economy. We were excited to have an ICC presence at Vision Quest, the Southern Chief Organization/Southern Chief Economic Development Summit, and the State of the City, State of the Province and other impactful events hosted by fellow Chambers of Commerce, in addition to being invited to attend the provincial throne and budget speeches.
In closing, I want to thank our board and staff for their hard work and dedication. I would also like to extend congratulations to our new Board Chair, Vanessa Everett and all of our new and returning board members. I am excited for you and our upcoming year. I look forward to working alongside you and further enhancing the reach and impact of the ICC.
Thank you, Maarcii, Meegwetch, Ekosi
Past Chair – Indigenous Chamber of Commerce