Small Business Incubator in Cornwall Ontario? Why Not? Editorial by Jamie Gilcig – March 26, 2011

Cornwall ON – For a few years now I’ve been talking Micro-Commerce and Incubation for small business in the city I live in, Cornwall Ontario.

Recently I ran a story about 19 businesses that shuttered since the holiday and that the plight of many more are in peril.

I have talked with a lot of business owners and government officials since.   It’s funny how perception is and how some people interpret what is written or said.   Of course we all have to live in our shoes and what is said about things we do or are jobs can have unforseen or intended impacts at times, but the bottom line is always the bottom line.

Is it time for more focus on supporting small business?   In my opinion yes it most certainly is.  The key problem in my city is that there appears to be zero support for these sort of initiatives at a government level.

I had an interesting conversation with a city official Friday and the most interesting thing was that there seems to be a chasm; a disconnect between what is available for assistance and an understanding of those who its aimed for.

An interesting conundrum indeed….

There’s also a huge lack of vision in my opinion and understanding of the importance of thriving small business; not only economically, but culturally.

LINK This link is to a story about Detroit who have seen their population and city devastated and literally seen their city devolve in a short period of time.

Some pockets of Detroit are seeing growth, led by immigrants, young professionals and artisans, which Mayor Bing sees as an important trend. “We are getting a lot of that 21-to-30 population moving back to the city,” he said. “I think that bodes very well for us.”

That’s the magic.  If you look at Westboro in Ottawa, it was the hip entrepreneurs that attracted people and growth to the area.   Sometimes that can happen organically, but sometimes it needs some assistance.   Sometimes you need to make things happen.

For example, the city of Cornwall spends thousands of dollars each year giving incentives to doctors to practice in Cornwall.    Great idea, proactive, and sometimes even effective.   But if the city were more attractive would it need to offer those incentives?  Wouldn’t it be great if the city of Cornwall itself was such an attraction that people migrated to it without incentive?

So does it take millions to help small business in a city of 50,000 people?  Why should any business get help over those that are here now and have made it?  Isn’t it the normal cycle that most small businesses don’t survive their first year simply because they aren’t prepared or can’t financially cope with the demands?

Well the answer to most of those questions is yes, BUT, in the end isn’t it the community that suffers by the lack of diversity and hope?

All it takes to create an incubator is a series of initiatives supported by agencies in Cornwall’s case like the Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre, the Chamber of Commerce, Team Cornwall, the City, and key business members.   Add in the Business Improvement Associations, Community Futures, the Eastern Ontario Training Board, St. Lawrence College, and other agencies and you could have something that would be the envy and blue print that could inspire other cities.

If they all put their brains together and all chipped in some resources enough would be on the table to start things moving and I have  a hunch that the initiative could even be cash neutral within three years.

A facility with shared services would allow small businesses to have a place to build from.  A commercial community Kitchen like Gaye Adams of the DBIA in Cornwall I’m sure would love to see would allow dozens of food services in the area a chance to legally distribute and market their products.

Shared infrastructure, overhead, marketing,  shared support when it comes to the skill sets for applying for what programs are out there and preventing issues that come from simply not being sure how to deal with the mountains of paperwork small business have to deal with could play a key role in more small business surviving?

It’s not rocket science.  It’s not insurmountable.  It’s not even difficult.   All it takes is some political will.

Jamie Gilcig

Editor of the Cornwall Free News and Small Business Owner

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)

James MoakDaily Dish News


  1. Political will? Not a chance! The Council are too busy learning how to use a Blackberry cellphone and learning to type in order to use their laptops. They have no time for “political will”.

  2. This would need to be initiated by a successful local entrepreneur who knows that you either innovate or die. I think most millionaires in our city are too busy protecting their interest…

  3. Where we could resevre a little funding for local business is to eliminate duplicate and redundant services. There are a few mentioned in your article Jamie, Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre, the Chamber of Commerce, Team Cornwall. I tried using the CBEC a little while back. Nice people yes, but just to explain the system to me was not helpful.

    It is too bad many of the original independant business owners are no longer with us. I can recall stories from Joe and George Assaly regarding the beginning times of the once popular JG Shies.

    Joe had mentioned sleeping in the basement as they could not afford to pay for a home. Others would reside above the buildings or in small apts in the back. It was the dues paid for small business.

    I wonder if they could have held the government responsible for not funding their business?

  4. Love the community kitchen idea. Certain there would be many entrepreneurs interested in taking advantage of this.

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