Wally Schumann: Importance of Small Business

Mr. Speaker, this is Small Business Week in Canada.

With over 90 percent of the NWT’s business being defined as small businesses, this important sector provides employment opportunities for our people, the economic diversity to balance the ups and down of the resource economy and makes our communities great places to live.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment helps create the economic environment NWT entrepreneurs and small business owners need to invest, take risks and prosper.

We do so with targeted policies, programs and funding initiatives, and in partnership with organizations such as the Business Development and Investment Corporation and Community Futures Organizations.

As individual entrepreneurs and businesses succeed locally, they contribute to regional economic growth and the sustainability of the NWT’s economy overall.

Mr. Speaker, our government invests daily in NWT small businesses.

During this session, I will be tabling a number of documents that will highlight the different ways we support economic growth and diversification through local and regional businesses and programs.

Among these are the grants and contributions delivered every year through a variety of programs to individuals, entrepreneurs, businesses, governments and groups with an economic interest across the NWT.  This investment in our economy totalled $18.7 million last year.

It includes initiatives like the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development, or SEED Program, that assists businesses looking to expand their offerings, build their knowledgebase, and fill niches within the NWT economy.

With challenges from sparse population to high shipping costs, our small businesses are often reliant on our support to respond to the market with a new product, build new skills at a tradeshow, or purchase needed equipment.   This is the kind of support that is provided by the SEED Program.

I will also be tabling the Annual Report and Corporate Plan of the NWT Business Development and Investment Corporation.  Last year, the BDIC disbursed $7 million in financing to 58 northern business enterprises, almost 80 percent of which were outside of Yellowknife.

BDIC’s subsidiaries saw 16 percent growth in employment and a 21 percent increase in sales in 2015- 2016.  They directly employed more than 16 full-time equivalent positions and generated $843,000 in sales of made-in-the-NWT products.  Through them NWT products are available for sale in retail outlets across Canada and parts of the US.

The Community Futures Program also plays an important role in advancing   grassroots support for up-and-coming businesses in our territory.   I will also be tabling an annual report detailing the performance of the independent Community Future Development Corporations that deliver this program in each of our 33 communities. 

The GNWT supports NWT business through its Manufactured Products and Business Incentive Policies, which are designed to support the creation and growth of competitive local businesses by guiding government purchasing to NWT operators, which provides investment into the small business and manufacturing sectors.   During this session, I will be tabling the annual report of government contracts over $5,000.  It will highlight a further investment of almost $216 million in NWT businesses. 

As a businessman myself, I want to thank the entrepreneurs, small businesses, economic development practitioners, and business advocates that support our territory’s business community.

I addressed the Northern Business Development Practitioners conference last week. These people work hard to support business development in communities around the NWT with their ideas, energy, and ingenuity. We will continue to contribute to their work in line with our mandate to support community economic development and diversity.

As our government continues to move forward with the suite of economic development initiatives, small businesses will continue to be at the forefront of our approach.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.