Annual conference supercharges economic development through entrepreneurship

Northeastern Alberta’s business community—including businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits—powers up every year at the Power Up North conference. The energy boost is undeniable.

This year’s gathering drew more than 175 people to Cold Lake October 3 to 5 to focus on the region’s economic future.

“It was an excellent opportunity for Northeast Alberta Community Futures, our municipalities, chambers of commerce, local businesses, and other organizations to come together for an exciting and productive business conference,” said Lisa Ford, general manager of Community Futures Lakeland. 

The conference was made possible by many organizations coming together as sponsors and partners to support our regional business community. The City of Cold Lake graciously came on as the title sponsor and showcased the beauty of Cold Lake by hosting the preconference event, “Cocktails & Sails.” at a local brewery. Community Futures Lakeland was also able to obtain a Northern and Regional Economic Development Program grant which allowed them to bring in high-calibre speakers

Power Up North aims to drive economic development in the region by encouraging and supporting economic developers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. Ford says so-called “small business” is a big player when it comes to regional economic development.

A huge portion of the area’s jobs are in small businesses, she said, and it is independent local entrepreneurs who give the region its distinct character. That’s why the Future Focused Tourism, with its spinoff economic benefits, was one of the main topic streams at Power Up North.

“Northeast Alberta is home to stunning lakes and tourist attractions, and we want to showcase our local entrepreneurs and potential opportunities,” Ford said. 

In the Future Focused Tourism stream, international destination development expert Roger Brooks led the discussions on developing tourism.

Other principal presenters were humourist and workplace culture expert Michael Kerr; motivational speaker Ian Hill; and “Nail The Numbers” CEO Taunya Woods Richardson.

Woods Richardson led the How to Future-Proof Your Business Finances stream, which dealt with important techniques and strategies around budgeting and managing finances—maybe not as glamorous as tourism, but full of insights for smaller enterprises. As Ford said, “the training was focused on real financial topics that helped our business owners understand their business finances. It’s imperative that businesses understand the current financial situation to support their sustainability and growth.”

Kerr and Hill were the keynotes in the third stream, The Future Face of Employment, which dealt with leadership, culture, and exploring creative opportunities to attract and retain employees.

The conference was held at beautiful Hotel Dene and Conference Centre. The program included opportunities to learn about and enjoy Indigenous culture, including a performance by Kehewin Native Dance Theatre. The superb catering by the Hotel Dene team included soups and bannock, elk stew, and other locally-sourced dishes.

Ford said Power Up North brings people, ideas, and energy together to propel entrepreneurship and drive local economies.

“We had economic development officials and businesses from all over Alberta in attendance. It was just a really great way for them all to network and connect,” she said.