Archive for the ‘small business’ Category

Not so small business
October 4, 2013

This article first appeared in the October All Month edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm, BC

October is small business month. Ironically, small business isn’t small at all. In fact, it’s the biggest business we have. According to Industry Canada, there are 1.1 million small businesses in Canada and 55% of those employ 1 to 4 people. Small businesses employ 69.7 percent of the private labour force and create the most new jobs.

Canada’s real economic action plan, it would seem, is small business. But there are areas where we don’t do as well. Government lobbying for one. Large businesses are much better at it. A study entitled Corporate Welfare at Industry Canada since John Diefenbaker studies what it calls “rampant corporate welfare”. Tens of billions of tax dollars have, over many decades, gone to giant resource, oil, mining, transportation and technology companies. The argument, of course, is job creation and economic prosperity but the numbers just don’t add up.

While I appreciate that traditional financial institutions are also in the business of making money and selling it as loans, I think it fair to question their commitment to small businesses and the local economies they serve. Even industry Canada regularly reports on the lending commitments made to small business. The especially small ones, that employ most of the people, are the most often denied turning instead to angel investors, personal debt, supplier credit and non-traditional lenders to make it happen. I believe there’s a seriously missed opportunity here both in an under served business market for banks, and a loss of productivity and jobs for the economy as a whole. But then again, I’m no banker.

There is thankfully, support for small businesses (albeit it a fraction of what’s dolled out to the big guys) in public agencies such as Community Futures, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, industry associations and export and business development banks that work hard in communities across the country to support what small business is about.

That we need a Small Business Month indicates to me that there is plenty of work yet to do. But then, that’s no surprise to small business owners. There’s always plenty to do despite the constant challenge of finding the time, money and resources in which to do it. We should take the opportunity to remind one another of the importance of small businesses as employers, consumers, taxpayers, neighbours, volunteers, supporters and community builders.

This is especially true for small businesses in small towns. Statistics Canada tells us that more and more Canadians are choosing an urban lifestyle and further studies suggest that small towns are at risk, economically and otherwise. Salmon Arm bucks this trend, as it happens, having recorded an increase in population over the last two census reports. A quick review of the recent history of Salmon Arm reminds us that who we are and what we do for a living are part and parcel of the city in which we live. So, in October, if you shop small, you’re thinking very big indeed.