Backgrounder

The Workforce Planning Board – Waterloo Wellington Dufferin [WPB] is one of twenty-six local planning zones across Ontario [Workforce Planning Ontario] and is a community directed, non-profit corporation leading Waterloo Region, Wellington County and Dufferin County in their approach to workforce development and labour market planning. WPB as Lead Applicant has extensive applied research experience [1997-] in its mandate to be a neutral catalyst collaborating with divergent labour market partners. WPB’s Lead Researcher for this investigation will be Dr. Sarah V. Wayland whose research on immigration and settlement is highly regarded and cited nationally; Dr. Wayland recently completed [March 2012] “WISE 5 – Winning Strategies for Immigrant Entrepreneurship in Five Communities” under lead of Workforce Planning Hamilton and in partnership with the Planning Boards in Waterloo Wellington Dufferin, Niagara, Elgin Middlesex Oxford and Windsor Essex. The WPB has tracked immigrant impacts on workforce and workplace annually since 2007.

Dr. Wayland has conducted research for universities, municipal/federal governments, foundations, public and not-for-profits. Her research and writing projects focus on various social issues: immigration, settlement, employment, and housing. Topics address: immigrant entrepreneurship; immigrant attraction and retention; legal and policy barriers to settlement for immigrants and refugees; employment-oriented supports for newcomers; housing needs of immigrants and refugees; human service needs of newcomers; eliminating processing fees for refugees; and others. Her WISE 5 project [Winning Strategies for Immigrant Entrepreneurship in Five Communities [2011-2012]] was the only Citizenship and Immigration Canada [CIC] funded research initiative in Ontario. These findings in relation to New Directions are current, relevant and centre on the Southwest Ontario Economic Development Region. Proposed research will provide subjective and econometric evidence to determine value-added contributions of Ontario’s rural immigrant entrepreneurs and their businesses. Project scope includes Ontario’s economic regions [Southwest, East, Northeast, North and their relationship to Greater Toronto Area].

Project Duration: 36 months

 

Abstract  

This research studies the effects of rural Ontario’s immigrant entrepreneurs’ value-added contributions to markets and workforce outcomes [2006-2018]. The research assesses immigrant firms’ business variables and analyzes net agri-food value chain profitability and competitive effects. The focus is on net attraction, retention and growth response for immigrant entrepreneurs [IEs] of small- and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs], including newcomers to Canada and recent migrants from urban to rural areas. Surveys, community mapping and interviews address social issues while econometrics provide hard data. Case studies explore effectiveness of economic development policies in meeting immigrant SME’s needs and identify strategies IEs use to address their issues and ensure their own success. The key objective of the proposed research is to collect foundational information on existing IEs and the untapped opportunities for further business growth. A Rural Immigrant Entrepreneur’s Guide will inform the development of rural policies to attract IEs to rural areas.

Benefits

This project builds on best business practices of Ontario’s agri-food value chains [VC]. New immigrant researchers, government policy advisors, and investors have introduced ethnic crops and processed goods into local and global markets.  This project will benefit rural Ontario’s IEs, their SME’s viability, the nature of their VC’s and contribute to economic development of local communities [ie. municipalities]. Value Chain comparisons in economic regions [Southwest, East, Northeast, North] and their relationship to GTA, positions this research and its collaborative approach to identify, leverage and accelerate the profitability of current and future IEs, benefit entrepreneurs in general and inform other policy-makers.

Rationale

To remain globally competitive, Ontario’s rural communities must attract immigrant entrepreneurs who can grow local populations and regional economies. Yet immigration is down across Ontario and most immigrants settle in urban areas.  Strong rural policies have potential to attract more immigrants and secondary migrants already living in urban areas, particularly if they can showcase entrepreneurism and small business opportunities that match immigrant skills and interests. This research will focus on the agri-food sector which is a growing economic driver and well positioned to potentially achieve profits in domestic, import and export markets quickly. The proposed research will 1] identify Ontario’s rural IEs, their firms’ issues and measure qualitatively the financial implications of their successes and constraints; 2] develop and implement models and case studies to obtain econometrics for measuring economic changes and trends in profitability and competitiveness. This foundation supports creating policy recommendations for attracting more IEs to rural areas.

Literature Review [click to review]

Objectives 

The objectives of this 3 year project are:

    1. to identify existing immigrant entrepreneurs [including secondary migrants] across agri-food value chain functions who own firms established for 1-3 and 3-5 years [firm failures and successes equally valued];
    2. to develop a socio-metric model to measure firms’ opportunities, challenges, solutions for business supports [self-driven and community-provided] and to identify remaining gaps;
    3. to leverage existing econometric models [location quotient and shift-share analyses] for measuring trends of three Census periods on firms’ profitability and municipal/regional competitiveness [this supports workforce planning and community economic development specific to immigrant entrepreneurs];
    4. to analyse firms’ viability using six key financial-ratio assessments;
    5. to identify and record a real-life’ case study’ series of rural immigrant entrepreneurial agri-food value chain[s]; and
    6. to work with collaborators to implement and evaluate 3 ‘early’ research recommendations [after year 1] for improving the supports and conditions for selected rural municipalities and regions.

Methodology

The proposed research takes a mixed embeddedness approach to immigrant entrepreneurship that considers both supply side (immigrant entrepreneurs[IEs] themselves) and demand side (opportunity structures or context that influences IE decisions), including the influences of policies, markets, networks and more. As noted by Kloosterman and Rath (2001:10), “IE’s make use of, negotiate and, to a lesser extent, create openings to start a business. These openings are not everywhere the same: they are contingent on the wider socio-economic context.” It will also consider levels of analysis, with the provincial level of analysis held constant (as study will be entirely within Ontario) allowing for fuller focus on importance of regional and municipal/rural levels of analysis. The research will have three components:

  1. Foundational Data (context)  [click to review]
  2. Living Data (socio-economic objectives)  [click to review]
  3. Case Studies  [click to review]

Deliverables

  • Final Report
  • Rural Immigrant Entrepreneurial Guide [includes Directory]
  • Media [10]
  • Business Articles [10]
  • Conference Presentations [10]
  • Project Website -social/interactive/sustainable
  • Videos [5 mini]
  • Capacity Building opportunities for entrepreneurs [10 events]
  • Research process not extractive, is inclusive
  • Establish capacity for entrepreneurs to sustain continuous research
  • KTT tactics create new value-added contacts and build business opportunities
  • Journal Papers [5]
  • Recommendations [3] become operational [Examples: access to Finance; supports for training and education, increased international trade and business promotion]

Knowledge Technology Transfer Strategy [KTT]

Strategy available upon request.

Invitations extended to 1600 strategic Ontario stakeholders across 10 key sectors for Letters of Support/Engagement within REAPontario project over each of the next three years. Stakeholders have and are still choosing the ways they best become involved with and leverage from the process and results of this research initiative.

Collaborating partners represent following sectors:

  1. Workforce Planning Professionals across Ontario
  2. Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Ethnic Networks
  3. Immigrant Service Providers [Sector Associations and specific Agencies]
  4. Business Service Providers [regional/provincial/and federal offices in Ontario]
  5. Governments and related Agencies [policies, programs, funding incentives]
  6. Financial and Investor Institutions [FIs – head provincial offices, regional offices, local branches in Case Study areas]
  7. Economic Development + Private Sector Leaders + Regional Economic Development Alliances
  8. Agri-food Value Chain Leaders [provincial, regional, individual VC companies or individuals]
  9. Universities + Community Colleges
  10. College Researchers/Centres for Sector +/or Immigrants +/or Entrepreneurship +/or rural economic development
  11. Rural Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Agri-food Value Chains