Benjoe aims to grow Indigenous business opportunities as Chamber chair
- | June 01, 2021
The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce is turning another page in its history books by choosing its second First Nations person to lead the board of directors.
Thomas Benjoe, president & CEO of FHQ Developments ltd. has become one of the youngest individuals ever to be elected to the position of chair and he is eager to continue creating opportunities for Saskatchewan’s Indigenous peoples.
“What I’d like to see is more Indigenous leaders in our business community stepping up and joining the chambers, and providing voice and guidance around policy,” said Benjoe.
Benjoe, 35, said he always wanted to help strengthen First Nations economy and this appointment is another way to do it.
“I’ve been clear right from the start what my passion is,” he said. “It’s to help our communities and advance our communities in business.”
Outgoing chair, Monica Kreuger, said Benjoe is young, has excellent experience in governance and leadership and that perspective and experience is needed.
“(His) whole focus of entrepreneurship is going to serve the board well as we transition into a new economy. And I know Thomas is going to be great at leading the charge on that.”
Saskatchewan Chamber CEO Steve McLellan has no doubt that Benjoe will strengthen the work of the organization.
“He is tied to the land, tied to the community, he understands the culture and the importance of it,” said McLellan.
“He walks in all spheres from business to culture to non-business, he embodies all elements.”
Building better working relationships and creating opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses is a key focus of the Chamber and Benjoe has been instrumental in pushing that agenda forward, McLellan said.
“He’s a champion of one of our most important files and that’s Indigenous engagement,” said McLellan. Prior to his appointment to chair, Benjoe spent two years on the board, where he helped develop the Indigenous Engagement Charter – a first for a provincial Chamber in Canada.
It was developed to facilitate non-Indigenous businesses developing relationships with Indigenous-owned entities like FHQ Developments ltd.
McLellan said the mining sector is critical to helping build those relationships and the chamber has worked hard at trying to strengthen them.
For four years, the chamber visited Northern communities, from Buffalo Narrows to Stoney Rapids, meeting with community members, business owners and leadership. A report on those consultations showed people are concerned about education, Internet access and highway improvements.
“Lots of that work has been done. We’re proud to have played a role in advocating for it,” McLellan said.
The Chamber also has created an Indigenous business directory with more than 500 businesses and posted it to their website.
Benjoe is a great role model, McLellan said.
“I want young Indigenous people to look at him and say, ‘Wow, I can be a CEO!’ I want young people to say, ‘if he can be the president of the largest business group in the province, the chair of that board, so can I.’”
Benjoe’s advice to youth is simple. “Find what your passion is…as long as I stuck to (mine), I knew that I was going to find success in some way.”