Greens call for better small business support as key to province’s economic security
The Green Party is calling for effective skills-training policy that addresses local economic potential and small business needs, Green Party leader Jane Sterk said today. The Green Party recognizes that small businesses are fundamental to BC's economy, she added.
To date, government policy has focussed on large-scale provincial needs that neglect the call from small businesses who provide the majority of sustainable employment in British Columbia.
This is a major area of our economy largely ignored by the other provincial parties as they focus on the natural resource sector. There are 400,000 small businesses in BC (defined as having fewer than 50 employees), employing over 1 million people and representing about 1/3 of our province's GDP.
“Unless we help provide skills training that directly addresses the local challenges faced by small business, BC could see a significant number close their doors over the next 20 years due to a growing skills shortage,” says Susan Low, Green Party of BC candidate for Esquimalt-Royal Roads.
"Helping small businesses with their immediate skills shortage and with long-term succession planning is critical to ensuring the viability of local economies,” says Low. "In the rush of skills training we have to ensure that there is a coordinated approach of training and supporting new business owners as well as workers.”
For eight years, Mike Lenz of M&A Canada has been working with BC business owners who wish to sell their businesses. "Well over 95% of the business owners I speak with are wholly unprepared for transitioning their businesses. The complexity of these transactions is not understood and expectations are often not in line with the reality of the process," says Lenz. "Education is the biggest need for business owners, though they have to be willing to make that effort. The second biggest need is access to capital to fund these transactions.”
Jim Witter, co- owner of Hidden Harbour Marina in Esquimalt, says he knows he needs to think about who will take over his business when he and his wife retire. "My business requires a lot of customer service and business decision-making expertise to stay afloat in these tough times. It’s difficult to find and pay someone who wants to work alongside us to learn the ropes. My business provides good employment and supports other businesses, and I'd like to see that continue. Our kids don't want to take over the business so we have to think of a backup plan.”
The Green Party of BC would address the growing skills shortage facing small businesses with a local focus. Green Party MLAs will:
- Act as a bridge and a voice that connects provincial skills training strategies and local small business needs
- Work with post-secondary educational institutions to match skills training with local small business demands
- Promote succession planning and business management training as two key aspects of our education strategy
- Advocate for continued and expanded Venture Capital tax credits for qualifying small businesses.
Both Low and Sterk have also owned small businesses. Susan Low was the founder and CEO of Directis Consulting Group Ltd. from 2003 to 2013. Directis is an employer of up to four individuals and specializes in strategic and succession planning for small businesses and non-profits. Sterk co-founded and co-owned Software House West Inc., a software company in Edmonton, Alberta for eleven years. By the time that Sterk sold her share of the business, it had grown from a two-person operation to an employer of 60 individuals.
British Columbia Small Business Facts and Figures
- There are nearly 400,000 small businesses in BC (defined as fewer than 50 employees), employing over 1 million people and representing about 1/3 of our province's GDP. (source: Small Business Profile 2012, BC Stats)
- Small businesses represent 98% of all businesses in BC. (source: BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation)
- In 2011, small business wages accounted for 32% of all wages paid to workers in BC, which was the highest share of any province. (Small Business Profile 2012, BC Stats)
- Small business accounts for 55% of goods exported from the province. (source: BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation)
- 32% of entrepreneurs are aged 55 and older (source: Small Business Profile, BC Stats, 2012)
- Only 63% of small business owners have a business strategy, let alone an exit plan. (source: Venture Connect / Community Futures Mid Island)