Retaining Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Promising Practices from Rural Areas

BRIANE LABUTE IMG_6624 (1)Today’s guest blog post comes from The Rural Immigration Project directed by Dr. Wayne Caldwell, a 3-year project housed at the University of Guelph that is exploring different approaches rural communities are using to attract and retain immigrants.

Author Brianne Labute and colleague Bakhtawar Khan spoke to immigrants, policy-makers, and service providers in four Ontario case study areas to uncover promising practices that may be applicable to other rural regions. 

In our research, we observed that most rural communities are in the early stages of attracting and retaining immigrants. As a result, the focus tends to be on attracting any newcomers rather than on specific groups. That being said, in Smiths Falls there were some unique initiatives to foster immigrant entrepreneurship. The Smiths Falls Local Immigration Partnership has observed an influx in immigrant-owned local businesses over the last few years. During our visit we learned there were two hotels, six franchise restaurants/coffee shops, two independent restaurants, and a nail salon owned and operated by immigrants.

Brianne Labute DSC_0370 Barns and hillside

Promising Practice: Partnership with Smiths Falls & District Chamber of Commerce


The Smiths Falls & District Chamber of Commerce provides a free one-year membership for immigrant business owners. The benefits of joining the local Chamber of Commerce include an invitation to networking sessions and being listed in the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Directory.

To celebrate the growing number of immigrant entrepreneurs in the community, an annual Immigrant Entrepreneur Award is presented at the Chamber’s Annual General Meeting. This award has been received with great enthusiasm as signaled by the high number of nominations each year.

Smith Falls Ontario

Political Support for New Immigrant Businesses

Elected officials in Smiths Falls personally connect with new businesses in the area to show their support. In addition, they try and garner awareness for a new business by attending inaugural ceremonies and ensuring media coverage. Having strong, personalized political support for immigrant businesses makes entrepreneurs feel welcomed in the community and able to reach out for support if required.

Funding for this research project is provided by the Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) New Directions Program.

For more information please contact Brianne Labute ( )

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