Aboriginal Business Assistance Program

Growing Aboriginal Procurement in the Electricity and Renewable Energy Sector: New Initiative Builds Aboriginal Business Capacity, by Connecting the Sector Buyers with Aboriginal Businesses

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What is the Aboriginal Business Assistance Program?

According to the 2006 Census, 37,000 Aboriginal people have their own business which is an increase of 38% from five years before. These businesses are often within the vicinity of electricity and renewable energy projects across the country. Aboriginal businesses offer a full range of products and services – from construction to knowledge and service-based sectors. This makes them prime candidates for participation in the electricity and renewable energy industry as goods and services suppliers.

Through the development and implementation of regional facilitated workshops, this project will build upon recommendations from the Electricity Human Resources Canada’s Diagnostic of Aboriginal Procurement Strategies project by providing Aboriginal businesses with explanations of the various components that are included in a Request for Proposal (RFP) process and guiding them through a typical preferred vendor application process. The workshops will also provide an opportunity to bring both Aboriginal businesses and electrical utilities together to network. This will, in turn, foster an understanding of both sides of the RFP process and create more successful collaborations and relationships.

Why Promote Aboriginal Procurement in the Electricity and Renewables Sector?

Additional reasons why electricity and renewable energy companies and Aboriginal businesses should foster procurement partnerships are as follows:

For Industry Buyers
  • Aboriginal Entrepreneurship, offering a range of products and services nationwide, is growing at a faster rate than entrepreneurship rates of the general population.
  • Added value such as improved corporate reputation and access to knowledge of local conditions, stakeholders and governance, amongst other reasons, can accrue from working with Aboriginal businesses.
  • Environmental conservation, responsible environmental stewardship, and a commitment to long-term, respectful, and collaborative relationships are among the values and goals common to sector companies and Aboriginal businesses, which is a great foundation for any procurement partnership.
  • Aboriginal firms often have comparative bottom line advantages based on location, and cost, e.g. potential cost-savings through utilizing suppliers local to remote project sites, as well as the availability of some government supports for companies that promote Aboriginal economic development.
For Aboriginal Businesses
  • Major projects and opportunities are anticipated in this thriving sector; expected investments from 2010 to 2030 are $195.7 billion in generation, $35.8 billion in transmission, and $62.3 billion in distribution.
  • The sector is increasingly looking at Aboriginal businesses to engage them in procurement processes.
  • Environmental conservation, responsible environmental stewardship, and a commitment to long-term, respectful, and collaborative relationships are among the values and goals common to sector companies and Aboriginal businesses, which is a great foundation for any procurement partnership.
  • Opportunities exist for Aboriginal businesses to participate in a variety of electrical energy generation initiatives, including fossil fuels, nuclear fission, kinetic energy (water/hydro and wind), solar photovoltaics, biomass, and geothermal.

The Workshops

As part of the project, 3 pilot workshops were held (Prince George, BC, Mississauga, ON, and Saskatoon, SK) with both Aboriginal business owners and industry representatives in attendance. These workshops were designed to provide Aboriginal business owners with:

  • An understanding of the makeup of the electricity sector.
  • An examination of the business case for developing supplier arrangements with the electricity and renewable energy sector.
  • Definitions of some common terminology in procurement.
  • The stages in the Request for Proposal process, some common contracting requirements, and the preparation of a formal bid.
  • A forum for networking and understanding challenges, opportunities and business alignments between participants.

There was a wide range of experience among the Aboriginal businesses. Most were established businesses seeking to expand their opportunities with the electricity and renewables sector; in general, they had previously submitted bids to local utilities and/or major contractors and felt they had achieved only limited success. There were a handful of businesses with very limited experience and inconsistent business practices in formalized procurement processes; some had no website, or no knowledge of industry procurement sites such as MERX; they were looking to build a business presence within the industry. The workshop also attracted First Nations or Métis economic development representatives, and similar umbrella organizations that in turn provide advice, guidance and business development support to Aboriginal businesses.

Industry representatives were from large provincial utilities. Although an effort was made to attract major contractors and large suppliers as industry representatives, this was not successful. Nonetheless, the utility company representatives were candid and forthcoming in their discussion of procurement opportunities and challenges, and the Aboriginal businesses were very appreciative of the chance to network with them.

Overall, the reaction of both Aboriginal and industry participants was positive; they indicated that the workshop was a valuable initiative and worthwhile investment of their time.

Project Results

Final Report

The final report can be downloaded here:

Business Tools and Resources

The Aboriginal Business Assistance Program has produced a variety of tools and resources for Aboriginal businesses looking to increase their participation in the industry. Visit www.electricityhr.ca/aboriginalbusiness to access them.

Aboriginal Business Directory

With the number of Aboriginal business owners across Canada increasing, they become increasingly important to the electricity supply chain. As another component to the ABAP project, and to help connect the electricity industry to Aboriginal Business owners, EHRC has developed an Aboriginal Business Directory. This directory provides comprehensive access to Canada’s Aboriginal products and services. To access the directory or to register your business, visit: www.electricityhr.ca/aboriginaldirectory.

Questions about the Aboriginal Business Assistance Program? Please contact info@electricityhr.ca.