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.
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