CFN – For the second year in a row politicians and mavens in Cornwall Ontario are up in arms about their rating in the CFIB’s Communities in BOOM report which measures the Entrepreneurial environment of cities across Canada.
From the CFIB:
Ted Mallett, Vice-President & Chief Economist
Queenie Wong, Senior Research Analyst
Entrepreneurs create more than businesses, they create communities. In fact, all of Canada’s urban centres can trace their existence to groups of like-minded business owners who made use of their regions’ features and nearby resources to build local economies. Today is no different; independent businesses and start-ups are vital sources of energy on which communities grow and flourish. This year, in CFIB’s fourth annual installment of Communities in Boom, we identify the large and mid-sized cities in Canada that have the entrepreneurial edge.
What makes an entrepreneurial city?
There is no question that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are Canada’s engine of growth. After all, SMEs employ about 52% of all working individuals in the country. Businesses, whether they are located in urban or rural areas, play an integral part in the economic and social well-being of communities. In this study, Canadians can gain a better understanding of the triumphs and hardships of small business ventures. It may seem obvious, but the surest signs of an entrepreneurial hot spot are the presence of a high concentration of entrepreneurs and a high business start-up rate. It is also important that business owners have high levels of optimism and success in their operations. Good public policy is also critical, so we look at the presence of supportive local government tax and regulatory policies.
CFIB assembled 12 indicators. Drawing from published and custom tabulated Statistics Canada sources, the index also contains direct perspectives from CFIB’s membership, which numbers more than 108,000 business owners across Canada. The city definitions are based on Statistics Canada’s Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) and Census Agglomerations (CAs), which cover local economic regions better than simply using municipal boundaries.
The standard complaint here in Cornwall has been the size of the sampling used to determine the ratings.
Here is a joint press release from the City of Cornwall’s Mayor Bob Kilger, and President of the Cornwall & Area Chamber of Commerce, Rick Shaver.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) recently issued a report entitled “Communities in Boom.” The report seeks to rank Canada’s top entrepreneurial cities.
Mayor Bob Kilger and Rick Shaver, President of the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce, issued a joint statement today concerning the report.
“We welcome any information that may help us better understand the needs and concerns of our business community and what we can do collectively to improve our economy. Unfortunately, the
sample size for Cornwall is relatively small, and as a result, it’s difficult to draw any definitive conclusions from the CFIB report.”
Both the City and the Chamber of Commerce are committed to the retention and expansion of small and medium enterprises. The Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre is currently conducting an average of 25
consultations with new and prospective entrepreneurs on a monthly basis. The Chamber of Commerce also supports small businesses through a variety of programs and services.
This week, for example, it is hosting BizFest, a week-long conference focused on innovation, growth and development of the business community. The City of Cornwall is a major sponsor of BizFest .
I attempted to interview both Mayor Kilger and Mr. Shaver for this story, but both were not available Wednesday; neither was head of Economic Development for Cornwall; Mark Boileau. I did speak with his second in command Bob Peters and we discussed a few of the issues, but not in detail as he was in transit and had not thoroughly reviewed the report.
I did speak with Mr.Ted Mallet, VP of the CFIB and their Chief Economist. He shared that the report was weighted on several factors. The input of the survey samples for example is only about 40% of the score. Other factors being the ratio of Commercial vs residential taxes. In this area for example Cornwall had a slim lead (2.67)over cities such as Brockville (2.79), Kingston (2.73), Ottawa (2.71) and of course the highest score going to Toronto (4.25).
He also confirmed that for Cornwall there were 111 answers from 44 responders compared to 473 in Brockville from 163 responders which to me is also an indicator of the Entrepreneurial environment as Brockville is about half the population of Cornwall.
There’s some good news for Cornwall moving from 100 to 98, but it led to questions about why Brockville for example is at number 73 in the ratings ahead of Ottawa at 78. Nearby Valleyfield Quebec is at #15 and they lost one of their major employers too when the Good Year plant closed a few years ago.
Mr. Mallet said the report also used Stats Can numbers to measure the number and ratio of Self-employed and start ups to factor into the scores and whether a city participated in Bizpal which reduces red tape.
The report was designed to rate and rank a city’s environment for Entrepreneurs. And I have to admit that as a member of the CFIB and small business and entrepreneur here in Cornwall it’s hard to argue with the numbers.
I’ve written about small businesses closing here; of the red tape in getting simple things done. I know of a few businesses that didn’t open or have had huge hurdles over the simplest of issues from permits to interpretations of code from inspectors.
Is Cornwall getting better? Yes. Can Cornwall do a better job? Absolutely. What will it take? I have lobbied the city and council for example to have an incubator created in Cornwall, but that’s fallen on deaf ears. Cornwall has in my opinion too many spin off departments. Heart of the City, Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre, etc are all providing services that in many cases are directly provided by city staff and services.
Cornwall Business Entreprise Centre’s services for example rarely offers much more support than the delivery of flyers and brochures or suggestions of who to call for help. Is that truly development? An example being that we were set to offer a Social Networking seminar that the city itself was to sponsor. It was going to help a several local business from the location we rented, caterer we were to use, speakers who were coming in and of course the businesses who were to be our clients when CBD announced on the same day what they called a Social Networking seminar for only $10. In essence as a small business and entrepreneur our event was sabotaged by our Business Entreprise Centre!
Cornwall recently passed a new policy, a precedent actually, that they will not advertise online with any media that allows Anonymous comments. While in principal and emotionally some of that argument makes great sense at the end of the day there are current industry standards and the legal practicality of enforcing such a practice.
That result will impact CFN to to tune of about 15% of our current revenue stream. So again, is this good for small business and entrepreneurship in Cornwall Ontario; especially when there was no issue with the product or service we provided our client? As a matter of fact the city shared that we delivered 18% more traffic to their Choose Cornwall website in 2011 to date over 2010. Will this policy serve the best interests of Cornwall or the thin skinned people who pushed this through?
So again it comes down to practices.
The city of Brockville for example has a measure in place where businesses that help revitalize their downtown core get a five year property tax vacation. The City of Cornwall has programs that help with construction improvements to buildings, but there is a process to go through that can be lengthy and isn’t guaranteed. In other words if you’re a business considering to locate you can’t budget with 100% confidence on what is or isn’t available to your project.
Again the good news is that when you rank 98 out of 100 there generally is only one direction to go; especially if you make changes in culture and focus.
If Cornwall Ontario really wants to be a place that welcomes and nurtures new businesses it has the tools and resources to create magic. It’s something I know I’m a part of and will continue to support. It’s why when the late Joe Gunn encouraged me to run to be on the board of our Chamber of Commerce I elected to run and will run again.
I also think it’s time for businesses to start to pressure our politicians to focus on what matters to business in this city more. Business needs a strong and active presence and voice. We do need a more business friendly environment. We do need to see our two main city arteries, Pitt Street and Montreal road be revitalized. And that will take vision and action to happen. There’s no room for partisanship; cronyism, favoritism; people need to work together if they want to makes things better.
My goal as a member of the CFIB, as a strong independent business, and proud resident of the City of Cornwall is to see us rise at least five places in the Communities in BOOM! report for 2012.
The only way that will happen is if more businesses and people start to work together.
Jamie Gilcig – Editor – The Cornwall Free News
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