In this article, we return to an interesting Canadian model for lending to small businesses in rural areas called Community Futures (CF). I report on a Conference Board of Canada report that measures the economic impact of CF in Ontario.
What we don’t know is how many immigrant entrepreneurs ever use CF… anecdotally, it appears that the answer is
“Not a lot.”
What is Community Futures
According to Lori Ries, President, Community Futures Network of Canada:
Community Futures is a unique community-driven, economic development initiative designed to assist communities in Canada’s rural areas to develop and implement strategies for dealing with a changing economic environment. (Ries, An Entrepreneurial Approach to Job Creation in Rural Canada, 2016, p. 1):
Established in 1985 as part of the federal government’s Canadian Jobs Strategy , CF organizations provide a variety of business development services, including
- business loans,
- technical support, and
Across Canada, they serve almost 15 million residents who live in rural and semi-urban areas of the country. These communities face many common challenges such as an ageing population, out-migration to urban centres, economic dependency on a limited number of industries, and scarcity of resources. They are also involved in a variety of community economic development (CED) initiatives. Each office delivers small business loans, tools, training and events for people wanting to start, expand, franchise or sell a business.
Since its inception, Community Futures organizations have helped more than 120,000 entrepreneurs, created and maintained more than 495,800 jobs, invested more than $4.2 billion directly into Canada’s rural economy, leveraged more than $8 billion in additional investment. Today, this board network of 269 CF community economic and business development organizations continues to receive federal funding delivered through the Government of Canada’s regional development agencies such as FedNor and FedDev.
These organizations or Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) support rural economic development through four key activities:
- working with local partners to advance strategic community planning and socio-economic development
- supporting community-based projects and special initiatives
- providing business services to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
- providing access to capital for SMEs
Community Futures of Ontario: More Bang for the Buck!
The Ontario Association of CFDCs (OACFDC) contracted the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) to research the impact of CFDC lending on the provincial economy. The report findings, called More Bang for the Buck : The Impact of CFDC Lending on Ontario’s Economy, found that from April 2009 to March 2015, the program disbursed $396 million in loans and raised a total of $ 1.142 billion in new capital investment funds. For each dollar of direct lending through the program, real GDP was lifted by as much as $4.50.
In most cases, CF loans were supplemented by owner equity and third-party lenders, thus increasing the impact of lending on overall capital investment significantly increased.
The study also found that the Community Futures Program lending service helped offset the effects of the recession, boosting employment by roughly 3,300 in 2010 and 2011 in the areas studied. These two years were found to be the peak years in terms of economic activity related to CF spending.
What’s Good for Business is Good for Government
CFP performance reports issued by Statistics Canada on behalf of the regional development agencies found that, over the past four years, businesses supported by Community Futures Programs showed a better economic performance when compared with businesses with CFP support. (Ries, page 8). The StatsCan study is based on indicators common to all the federal agencies, such as employment, the survival rate of businesses, business volume and productivity.
The federal government benefits from improved economic performance of the CFP-supported firms in terms of additional revenues. Through many avenues — including increased job creation, payroll, sales figures and the survival rate of businesses — the government receives new tax revenues that significantly offset the government’s investment in the CFP.
Unfortunately, public data is not available regarding what types of firms receive these funds and the extent to which some might be owned by immigrants or newcomers.
Ries, Lori with Réseau des SADC et CAE. 2016. An Entrepreneurial Approach to Job Creation in Rural Canada. Working Paper series N° 195. Rimisp, Santiago, Chile.
Sarah Wayland, Principal Investigator