On the last day of Small Business Month in B.C., the minister responsible arrived in Prince George to meet with local entrepreneurs. Naomi Yamamoto held a roundtable hosted by the Chamber of Commerce to take the local business pulse and get a sense of their desires for government policies in the future.
"There are regional and sectoral differences across the province," said Yamamoto following the meeting, one of many she has held around B.C. in recent weeks. "In the north and central parts of the province we are hearing about the skilled labour shortage that is affecting the growth of small business more severely than in the Lower Mainland, but one issue that's provincewide is the lack of capital for small business and," the red tape they have cut through to satisfy government requirements.
A lot of that red tape comes at small business from local governments needing a lot of sometimes onerous permit and inspection requirements, but one provincial government criticism outlined by Central Interior Logging Association boss MaryAnne Arcand served as an example. Arcand explained to Yamamoto that local companies are being shut out of the provincial bidding process on goods and services contracts because they have to provide hardcopy documents, often in person. If that could be done via email, she said, a lot more of those contracts would come to northern bidders.
Yamamoto said that was an excellent example of something tangible her ministry could pursue on their behalf.
New Initiatives Prince George business development manager Dave Jephcott said the provincial government could also look at ways of promoting the needs of the north - and the innate benefits of living here - in the south. He arrived here from the Sunshine Coast about six months ago with little positive impression found in his online research of the Prince George region, he said, only to find a community he is already in love with and perfectly suited to his young family.
Garth McKenzie, commercial account manager for RBC, said that red tape was a major hurdle for the clients he routinely meets coming into the bank for financing. Their business model would better favour loans if they could shed some of those burdens, because a lot of it falls on the personal shoulders of the owners instead of being spread over a corporation's large human resource pool.
"My clients need time," he said.
Former small business owner Yamamoto agreed, saying "I think time is often more important than money. When the economic crisis hit, [research shows that] big business laid a lot of their workforce off compared to small business. That tells me not that small business didn't hurt, but that owners put their own paycheques into employees, to keep them employed. They sacrificed."
Yamamoto added that the economic momentum had now shifted, especially within B.C., and studies of small businesses were showing them that owners had a lot of confidence going forward, including hiring confidence in the coming year.
"We have to give the small business sector some love because it is what makes our communities tick and I have a lot of passion for that."