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Small Business Week with PAB & Area Chamber

PAB & Area Chamber of Commerce President René Roy and Business Development Officer Natalie MacIsaac. – © Rosalyn Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter – with files from Rosalyn Roy PORT AUX BASQUES — Newfoundland and Labrador is celebrating Small Business Week from Oct. 16 to 22, and numerous activities are being planned to highlight the significance of small businesses on the growth of the economy. According to the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology (IET), the Provincial Government is highlighting more than $29 million in funding contributions to small businesses, and support for economic development through a variety of programs and services offered by the Department such as:

$15.5 million in Research and Development investments, including approximately $6.7 million directly to companies; More than $7.5 million was approved to support 98 projects through the Regional Development Fund to assist with community economic development projects, leveraging over $28 million from other partners and sources; More than $6.4 million to support 156 projects through the Business Development Support Program, leveraging $5.2 million from other partners and sources; and$315,000 to support five commercial loans through the Business Investment Program, leveraging over $1.2 million in additional funding contributions. “The Provincial Government provides a wide array of services and financial support to small and medium-sized businesses, including counselling, repayable and non-repayable financing options, enterprise promotion, and export development and trade. The department invests significantly in programs and supports for start-up companies and the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.” “Small business owners across Newfoundland and Labrador are a major contributor to our province’s economic success,” said IET Minister Andrew Parsons. “Our government is proud to support these hard-working entrepreneurs who create jobs, contribute to our province’s high quality of life, and play a big part in our local communities. It is important that we take the time to recognize and support our local entrepreneurs, not only this week but throughout the year.” The Port aux Basques and Area Chamber of Commerce is moving in a new direction this year, offering some new events. “I don’t think we’ve ever had seminars and presentations during Small Business Week, at least not for many years before my time on the Chamber,” said President René Roy. “But for this one, we’re actually going to have three presentations or seminars throughout Small Business Week here at the Train Museum, the Chamber site, and we’re hoping we get a good response.” The presentations are open to more than just members of the Chamber. “It’s open to member businesses, anyone who’s also interested in starting a business, anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur, or anyone who wants to come up and learn about programs and the challenges you might face,” said Roy. “Apparently the last one we held was 2017 for programs during Small Business Week.” There are three events on the schedule, one hosted by the Gateway Status of Women Centre, another by People of the Dawn Indigenous Friendship Centre (PDIFC), and a third by Tourism Southwest, with each focusing on different aspects of the workplace. “(Gateway Status of Women is hosting) awareness of domestic violence and signs of that, and I believe that’s being put on by Mandy Ryan Francis,” said Roy. “And we’re going to have the People of the Dawn Indigenous Friendship Center here. Patrick Park-Tighe will be here, and we’re not exactly sure what he’s going to be talking about, but I think it’s going to be something along the lines of diversity in the workplace, hiring minorities. I could be mistaken, but I think that’s going to be his focus.” “Tourism Southwest is hosting their annual supper on Monday, October 16 at Hotel-Port aux Basques. It’s basically for anybody involved in tourism on the Southwest coast,” said Business Development Officer Natalie MacIsaac. ‘They get to attend the meeting and the supper, and they basically tell how their season went.” There won’t be a presentation hosted by the Chamber itself. “We haven’t got anything planned on that. Probably should have, but we only had our meeting two weeks ago, so we didn’t really have a lot of time to put something together,” said Roy. “But moving forward, it’d be a nice idea to have Chamber do a presentation as well.” It’s a normal practice for the Chamber to take time off during the summer, which can definitely put a rush on plans being put into motion before the end of the year. “From what I can see from the past, it has been due to holidays, people on vacations, the busy season here at the Chamber itself for the gift shopping and tourism coming through,” said MacIsaac. “So it’s just easier to put a pause on the meetings until we get back, so everybody can enjoy their summer. Basically, it’s our busiest time of the year.” The Chamber wants to highlight the importance of Small Business Week and through that be able to offer more resources to members and future members. “It’s a good opportunity for them to learn about what kind of challenges they might face, what kind of assistance they can get from the Chamber or from other organizations like the Gateway Women’s Center or the CBDC or the provincial government,” said Roy. “There are a lot of programs out there, so if we can maybe educate some entrepreneurs on what they can avail of, then it’s a success no matter what.” The Chamber is currently working on compiling resources to assist individuals who come directly to them for business advice. “We are trying to put packages together. We do have information that we can give to them and we can put them in touch with certain businesses locally that are connected to government programs,” said Roy. “We can put them in touch with local resources and they’d be able to help them out there as well, but we do hope to build more of a central network that we can provide them with a whole list of resources they can get to.” The Chamber is also expanding its own horizons by attending the Atlantic Conference for Chambers of Commerce, the first time they have ever attended. “There were a lot of programs, not programs, but procedures that the Halifax Chamber of Commerce does that we can certainly take advantage of. They rely heavily on their websites, networking seminars, and they have an open door policy,” added Roy. “Basically, if you have a single question, you can walk in and you can use their website, you can use their computers and find out whatever you want to know, and we’d like to maybe build a website and be able to be a valued resource, sort of like a library for entrepreneurs. It would be great.” The Small Business Awards won’t take place this year either. “We are going to revisit that, and that’s something that Halifax does, this involvement with their membership all the time,” said Roy. “So they have quarterly reports. They have bi-annual awards twice a year, multiple categories, and that’s something that we haven’t done here for years, since before COVID. So if we can get that kind of involvement in dinners and networking, then that’s what the Chamber is for.” With their newly elected team in place, the Chamber plans to expand on what they can provide to small businesses. “If we can provide them – even an existing business, like a local grocery store -they might not know what the WHMIS or the OSHA standards are or what the government tax brackets are, because they’re always changing,” explained Roy. “So if we can get people to come in and have these kind of discussions to keep local businesses informed as to what they need to know and all up to date, then that’s what we want to try, and become more involved in everyday business for the local communities. If we can increase that and offer more information to businesses, then hopefully the businesses will see the benefit of joining the Chamber and supporting us.” Expanding what they can provide could also mean allowing seminars and presentations to be viewed online for the members that are unable to attend in person. “We’re kind of hampered by the fact that our current communications network here, the service provider we have, is old and we’re trying to get it upgraded. Until we actually manage to do that, I don’t think it’s going to be possible. But it would be a wonderful thing once it’s upgraded to be able to hold a video conference, seminar sort of thing,” said Roy. “I was thinking of having people come in and do their presentation and have it broadcast for members who aren’t immediately level, but for pre-recorded, that would be something probably have to look into. I haven’t looked at that at all.”

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