Cornwall…entrepreneur unfriendly?

The Le Village downtown at Montreal Rd. and Marlborough St. (Cornwall Newswatch/File)

CORNWALL – When it comes to starting up and growing your own business, a new study suggests Cornwall doesn’t have open arms compared to its Canadian counterparts.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business Entrepreneurial Communities study released this month scored Cornwall at 39 out of a possible 100 points based on 14 key indicators. That’s a drop of 4.5 points from the 2013 survey.

Cornwall is second-last (120th) out of 121 cities, doing slightly better than Montreal.

Other Eastern Ontario cities did better than Cornwall with Brockville at 81st, Kingston at 66th and Ottawa at 84th. Lloydminster, Alberta took the number one slot.

The CFIB says the study assesses the degree at which municipalities (with a population over 20,000) have enabled entrepreneurs and small businesses to start, grow and prosper.

Cornwall scored high marks for quality of life at 93 per cent, which the CFIB says can have a significant effect on business growth.

But the Seaway City scored poorly on entrepreneurial presence with anemic growth of 0.1 per cent from June, 2013 to June, 2014, the number of business establishments per capita and a lower percentage of the population that are self-employed (7.5 per cent).

Cornwall also took a hit for government red tape as 78 per cent of small business owners surveyed said regulatory burden was a problem. Only ten per cent of business owners said they felt the local government was aware of the small business sector.

Pollard: CFIB doesn’t “have their finger on the pulse of the region”

Candy Pollard, Business Consultant with the Cornwall Business Enterprise Center, doesn’t believe the study reflects the local small business market.

Pollard is skeptical of the CFIB’s sample size. “They (the CFIB) never let me know how many people are being surveyed from our region. If they have three members…that’s not representative of our region.” The CFIB surveys its own members for the Entrepreneurial Communities study.

She says, to her knowledge, the CFIB hasn’t checked in with any local chambers of commerce.

Pollard also believes the CFIB membership fees of $250 a year, plus $30 for every employee, would be a turn-off for many entrepreneurs. “I can tell you that a lot of our businesses around here, they won’t pay that kind of money. I have a suspicion that it’s a very small segment,” she said.

Pollard says the study seems to emphasize Western Canada and also uses outdated census information.

With a number of funding programs like Summer Company and Starter Company, a new program this year for entrepreneurs, Pollard believes the study doesn’t reflect the new business resources.

“I think, personally, entrepreneurial support in this area is at an all-time high with these new programs that are coming out.”

Pollard says in the last few years an average of 50 new small businesses a year are opening in Cornwall creating an average of 85-90 jobs.

While some of them may go under, Pollard points to examples like Vitalglow, Ground Soap and Spa Oasis of how the small business community is flourishing in Cornwall.

“When I look at all of that and look at this report, I think, ‘Wow, there seems to be a disconnect somewhere.’”

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