Small Businesses the Lifeblood of Rural Communities: Jackman-Atkinson

Small Businesses the Lifeblood of Rural Communities: Jackman-Atkinson

By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, Neepawa Banner & Press

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You can get everything you want on Amazon, except for a vibrant community. Rural towns may be diverse, but they all have one thing in common; if you look up and down their Main Streets, you’ll find small businesses.

According to Industry Canada, this country is home to over 1.14 million small business and each day, these entrepreneurs wake up and get to work, doing the heavy lifting of driving Canada’s economy. Small businesses are the lifeblood of rural communities, not only do they provide local goods and services, they also provide employment and support for local organizations and events. Big business might get all the limelight, but for one week, at least, it’s time for small business to shine.

Next week is Small Business Week and it’s a great opportunity to remember just how vital small businesses are to our communities and the Canadian economy in general.

It turns out that most Canadian businesses are small. According to Statistics Canada data, of the 1,167,978 private businesses active in Canada, 54.1 percent are micro-enterprises, that is, firms with one to four employees. If you add to that the number of businesses with less than 20 employees, these small businesses account for 86.2 per cent of Canada’s private employers. If you add up all the small businesses, defined as those with fewer than 100 employees, about 98 percent of Canada’s businesses fall into this category. Only 1.8 percent of Canadian businesses have between 100 and 499 employees and the tiny remainder (0.3 percent), have more than 500 employees.

In rural communities in particular, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of small businesses — in most cases, if it weren’t for them, we would have no businesses at all. Small businesses dominate the industries that keep rural communities viable. Looking at the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector, for example, of the 47,397 businesses recorded by Statistics Canada’s December 2015 Business Register, 47,121 of them had less than 100 employees.

Often, people just think about small businesses as the source of local goods and services, but they are also vital employers. When we think about ourselves, our friends, our family and our neighbours, most of them will work for a small or medium sized business. Across Canada, 70.5 percent of people work for a small business. Every year, we gain about 33,000 entrepreneurs and if we want to talk about employment growth and opportunities for Canadians, small businesses play a key role and will continue to do so going forward.

Every business starts small and whether driven by need or desire, entrepreneurs are passionate about the growth and success of the business they have created. That passion drives them to innovate and their more flexible nature allows this to happen. Small and medium businesses account for 41 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product and as larger operations tend to plateau, it’s the smaller operations that are, in general, capable of providing faster-paced growth. In a business climate characterized by rapid change, we need to be encouraging and supporting those businesses that can best adapt and meet the changing needs of consumers.

Entrepreneurs and their work need to be better recognized and celebrated. Small Business Week is one way to not only recognize the contributions of small businesses, but also provide education and networking opportunities for their owners. Talking to others with similar experiences can help entrepreneurs overcome the challenges they are facing or see new opportunities.

Next week, as you interact with the various small businesses in your community, be sure to thank the entrepreneurs who have made this possible. Thinking beyond just next week, it’s time to really celebrate the small businesses that make our communities.

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