World Indigenous Business Forum laying groundwork in ABQ

World Indigenous Business Forum laying groundwork in ABQ

  • May 28, 2024
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Representatives from an Indigenous economic development institute were in New Mexico last week, rallying up interest in a world-renowned forum that is coming to Albuquerque later this year.

The World Indigenous Business Forum is coming to Albuquerque Oct. 28-30. The forum was started by the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc. in Winnipeg, Canada.

Albuquerque will be the host city for the 15th business forum, and it will be the first American city to host the event since Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2015. Last year’s forum was held in Papua New Guinea.

“Right now, we’re advertising Albuquerque all over the world,” said Rosa Walker, president and CEO of the ILDII, which initiated the business forum. The institute partnered with the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce for the forum.

Organizers said the forum will be an economic driver for Albuquerque. Mackenzie Oatway, manager of the ILDII, said that so far people from 20 countries have committed to traveling to the city for the forum. International countries expected to attend the forum include New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Islands and Canada.

“We promote Albuquerque as a meeting destination, and our market is Hispanic/ Native American,” said Minerva Jurado-Perea, destination director for the Hispano Chamber. “Bringing this forum exposes Albuquerque and New Mexico to the world.”

Last week, ILDII members traveled to New Mexico to meet with members and governors from the state’s pueblos to discuss the event.

Walker said the goal of the forum is to provide a venue for Indigenous people from around the world to connect, inspire and network.

“There’s no other forum like it anywhere,” she said. “Our goal is to inspire one another, and also to invest in each other and look for business opportunities.”

Unlike other events, such as the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, the event will be focused entirely on economic development.

“We’re specifically focused on business and economic development, and building economies around Indigenous people around the world. So that’s our focus. We don’t do any social issues,” Walker said. “We want to support entrepreneurs, whether it’s youth, whether it’s women, that’s who we want to support. And artisans from around the world.”

Regardless of tribe or country, she said many Indigenous entrepreneurs have faced similar challenges, such as access to capital.

“It doesn’t matter what country you go to, as Indigenous people, we’ve all experienced the same issues and challenges,” Walker said. “And a lot of it’s related to colonization. Most of us, as Indigenous people around the world, have been colonized. So our issues are around access to funding, access to better opportunities in order to start a business.”

A theme the institute is trying to stress, Walker said, is that tribal communities should diversity their economies.

“If you’re making money in some area, like with the casinos, well, don’t always just put your eggs in one basket, let’s look at other economic opportunities, invest in your local municipalities next door, create those partnerships,” Walker said.

She spoke well of Albuquerque’s culture during her visit.

“This is an incredible opportunity, because people here really work together like I’ve never seen in any other state or any other country,” Walker said. “What I’m seeing in New Mexico is the willingness to work together and to support each other. I don’t see the divisive lines between Indigenous and non-Indigenous we’ve seen in other other places.”

Ryan Boetel is the business editor for the Albuquerque Journal. He can be reached at 505-823-3960 or [email protected]