Is it time to Better Support and Assist Small Business in Cornwall Ontario? – February 18, 2011

Cornwall ON – Recently the Chamber of Commerce had an initiative to Shop locally like many communities across North America.

There are issues for small business all over, but for today’s editorial and questions I’m going to focus here in Cornwall Ontario.   Not because it’s better or worse than any other city; just because that’s where I live at the moment.

Since January a number of businesses have shuttered up.   That happens everywhere so again; I’m not picking on Cornwall which is a magical place with a World of opportunity.

That being said I have to ask the question if we truly value small businesses enough?   Do we find value in service and knowledge or is it all about the bottom line price even if what we’re buying doesn’t have the full value of what we’re looking for?

An example.  I have an eleven year old washer that still works perfectly.   Those ones selling for $399 in certain stores I doubt would see half as much service.

The Walmart’s of the world have really changed society.   The lowest price isn’t always the best value.   If factories shut down here in Ontario because of lower priced labor and manufacturing costs who really loses?  We the consumer in the end pay the freight.

Today to start a business you have to pay for deposits and permits.  You have to pay for HST on top on all those as well.   Labour costs start at over $10 per hour, but require nearly $6 per hour in addition to support and service.

If you go for example to Walmart to buy a music CD.  (I know, how many of us do that anymore!) your choice is very limited to what they choose to carry.  Ten or twenty years ago you’d still have Walmart, but you’d also have a few CD shops around.

Small business adds flavour and character to cities and towns.  It adds diversity; culture; creates employment and better quality of living.  It creates wealth.   When you’re on Brookdale and you see that Walmart lot full what you really are seeing is the lifeblood of an area flowing away; to over seas laborers and of course to large company’s that are allowed to take advantage of a system that is not level nor protective of most Canadians.

So what are the solutions?   No real easy ones; that’d be for another editorial, but for a city like Cornwall and the area a choice has to be made to either embrace, support, and attract independent small business or not.

If the choice is seeing value in small business what can be done to help?    Here in Cornwall we have a Chamber of Commerce, the city of course, two BIA’s, Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre, and Team Cornwall.    There also is Heart of the City.     And there are some great people working for them too.    Short of being an actual property owner there’s not much assistance you can get.  Some advice yes; a sympathetic ear on occasion; yes, but actual help geared for small start ups or microcommerce, not as such.   You are directed to government agencies that require applications which you need a whole skill set to generally succeed in gaining a high interest loan.

The closest currently available is the Farmer’s Market which is driven by the DBIA and embraces and creates an environment for Small Businesses to gain some exposure on Saturday mornings for a few months per year.

An example. I have access to an outfit that gives out Interest free loans up to $15,000.  It requires up to three co-signers, people with good records who essentially are vouching that you’ll pay back the monies or they have to.  It’s a great program and has been around an awful long time.  Nothing like that exists in our area.

Some thoughts on what a city like Cornwall can do to help Small Business:

Creation of a facility that allows small business to share a facility.  This reduces the initial capital overhead for a small business or service.  It reduces red tape and creates an incubator for services and product sales that otherwise would not be available to residents or would be basement or under the table efforts.

Mostly it all comes back to vision and where priorities lie within a community.   Many of these efforts would actually be cash neutral or positive if done carefully and supported.

Of course there are other tools and ideas that can help create and support small business.  It all comes down again to vision and the political and community will to make it happen.   I do believe though that successful small businesses lead to stronger communities and much happier and fulfilled people.

Again, this is after all just one man’s opinion.   I do think though that small business offers diversity that is sorely needed in today’s economy.   Online shopping is great, but nothing replaces the true marketplace.

You can post your comments below.

Framed Photography Best Western Cornwall Schnitzels


  1. I find it very confussing were you stand on this subject Jamie.I no you would love the citzens of Cornwall to do most of their shopping at small businesses around Cornwall and for goverments to support and help finace small buisnesses.Then on the other side of the coin, you are a great promoter of shopping locally.But you seem to hate the big box stores like walmart.But when people shop at stores like Walmart,Sears,Canadian tire,Zellars,the Source,Home depot and many more Big franchise stores aren,t we in fact shopping locally.What bussiness in Cornwall besides the obiveus would you say are small buisness.

  2. Author

    Hi Luckyred. Not, not really. First off I believe that Big Box stores have a right to be. To exist. I personally choose to not shop at Walmart because I don’t like their predatory nature, but I will shop at some of the other stores on occasion. I also consider “local” to be the area, and not just Cornwall. I know that when I shop at an independently owned business that more of those dollars stay in Cornwall and get spent at other local businesses creating a “churning” effect.

    There are plusses and minuses to some of these Big box stores. One, they tend to keep wages down which isn’t good for a local economy unless there are other industries and services that do have higher paying jobs. Recently someone was trashing Star Tek, but I asked them a simple question. If there was no Star tek where would most of those workers work in Cornwall?

    The problem with a Walmart type business is they kill their competition and because of their size and lower pay scale make it harder even for larger stores to compete which is probably why some people are unhappy about them going grocery. If say a Food Basics pays $1.00 more per hour to their staff than Walmart and all people care about is lower price eventually Food Basics could lose it’s competitive edge or have to find other ways to compete and keep up or simply lose their bottom line.

    Again, those employees making even a dollar more per hour have those $30-$40 each week more to spend and the lower a person’s income the higher the percentage of it that’s spent in their local area.

    Even my business; advertising and marketing for example; when I walk into an independent vendor I generally am dealing with the owner or manager. If I walked into a big box store I’m referred to an agency; usually in Toronto; that knows very little about our local marketplace.

    The problem with local markets are similar to global ones that when the playing field isn’t even Big Box bulldozes right over independent’s and that erodes communities and homogenizes what’s available.

  3. This should boggle your mind!! And Probably scare you as well!

    1. At Wal-Mart, Americans spend $36,000,000 every hour of every day.

    2. This works out to $20,928 profit every minute!

    3.. Wal-Mart will sell more from January 1 to St. Patrick’s Day
    (March 17th) than Target sells all year.

    4. Wal-Mart is bigger than Home Depot + Kroger + Target + Sears +
    Costco + K-Mart combined.

    5. Wal-Mart employs 1.6 million people and is the largest private
    employer, and most can’t speak English.

    6. Wal-Mart is the largest company in the history of the world.

    7. Wal-Mart now sells more food than Kroger & Safeway combined, keep
    in mind they did this in only 15 years.

    8. During this same period, 31 Supermarket chains sought bankruptcy.

    9. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other store in the world.

    10. Wal-Mart has approx 3,900 stores in the USA of which 1,906 are
    Super Centers ; this is 1,000 more than it had 5 years ago..

    11. This year, 7.2 billion different purchasing experiences will
    occur At a Wal-Mart store. (Earth’s population is approximately 6.5

    12. 90% of all Americans live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart.

    13. The value of product for Wal-Mart passing through the port of
    San Diego each year is a larger sum than 93% of ALL countries Gross
    National Product (GNP) …..and that is only ONE port …one way –
    that’s how Wal-Mart gets it’s stuff.

    14. Of the 1.6 million employees, only 1.2% make a living above the
    poverty level.

    15. Wal-Mart’s head office is located and centralized in
    Bentonville. Due to this fact, there are more millionaires per square
    mile there
    than any place on Earth.

    16. The official U.S. Government position is that Wal-Mart’s prices
    are no lower than anyone else’s when compared to a typical families
    weekly purchases. That’s the view of the statisticians at the Bureau
    Of Labor Statistics (BLS) responsible for calculating the Consumer
    Price Index (CPI).

    17. 92% of everything Wal-Mart sells, comes from China . Another
    4% comes from Chinese owned companies in the U.S. or in 3rd world

    18. Wal-Mart and MOST large companies, take out life insurance on
    it’s employees, without their knowing. If an employee dies, ALL the
    insurance moneys go to the companies. I.e. An employee making $18,000
    per year, dies, and the company might make as much as $1 million.
    Most often these moneys, coming from what is commonly referred to as
    “Dead Peasant Life Insurance Policies”, is paid out to executives as
    bonuses. (A common practice, unknown by the average consumer).

    19.. Wal-Mart now averages a “profit” (not sales) of $36 billion per year.

    20. In almost every area that Wal-mart moves into, there is a battle
    or court cast with local by-laws. Wal-mart refuses to abide by them.

    21. Let Wal-Mart bail out Wall Street. If not, consider shopping
    someplace else.

  4. WILLIE 191.Well maybe the Americians have something to worry about, if thats the case.As far as i,m concerened China owns Americia.(money wise) Thats the only reason China is not at war with America.
    As a Canadian i really don,t give a sh– what Walmart is doing to the Americian people.Walmart saves everyday people money, for me and millions of other people, that is the bottom line.
    Sure most of there products are from China but everyone else,s products are from China too.If we compare the wages Walmart pays our local people to lets say our very own Canadian franchise (Here it is) Tim Hortons you will not see any diffrence.Iv,e worked for some small buissiness around town they certainly don,t compare any better.Its a dog eat dog world.Have a nice day

  5. Hey Willie191, thank you for that enlightening information on Wal-Mart. It’s quite interesting! Sure they pay minimum wage to most of their employee’s but at least its a job. With the mom-&-pop stores there wouldn’t be any job! As luckyred said, Tim Hortons is just as bad.

  6. Let’s not forget that Cornwall is a Wal-Mart town…Cornwallites choose to shop there….just look at their parking lot…..

  7. Author

    Hi Joe, I hope in my heart that’s not true. Sometimes what’s evident isn’t true….And can you imagine if 20% of those cars shopped downtown or at local stores instead?

  8. Jamie, we still have some freedom and rights in this Country – one, I believe, is we may shop where we like….if the citizens of Cornwall choose to shop at Wal-Mart – so be it!…the proof is Wal-Mart wanting to expand the size of their stores’ square footage – as for me,. I really don’t care one way or another.

  9. Author

    Joe I also believe in having freedoms and rights. I do however believe in less corruption and a more level playing field. Walmart and Big Box stores in my opinion get a much better shake from government. I won’t belabor those reasons in this post, but I do think that it’d be odd for you to take time out of your busy day to post about something you don’t care about?

    As the treasurer of our Chamber of Commerce surely you care about how, where, and why people spend money in this city?

  10. I care that Cornwallites have the right to spend their money where they want Jamie, and I would think you do also! – at least, I hope you do…..

  11. Author

    Joe that’s not the issue. It’s not about rights, but about what’s right. The playing fields are not equal. I count 9 retail outlets that have shut since January here in Cornwall. A few of them just might still be open if that playing field was a bit more level.

    Again, as you state very eloquently; it’s about choice. My choice is to try and find ways to help small local and independent business and boycott Walmart.

  12. Is that roughly 6 dollar per hour cost per employee including the combined payroll / health taxes and the associated book keeping costs?

    Small to medium business really need some help. A tax incemtive to advertise could help them, the printing & media industries and allow them to direct market to a wanted segment. Not a government bailout but directing funds from other departments perhaps. I am sure we all could offer a few!

    Cornwall has the best electricty costs so that should not be a high factor.

    How about better locations that they cater to. Buildings that have more tenants on a main street with ease of access even can bring more people.

Leave a Reply