By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, Neepawa Banner & Press
NEEPAWA, Man. — As we close in on Christmas, businesses are anxiously looking at their books to see just how they’ve done this year. This is especially important for the small businesses that run up and down our Main Streets, many of whom rely on end of year purchases to keep them profitable.
Rural communities are reliant upon their small businesses, without them, we wouldn’t have much for business at all. Beyond the obvious — they offer us the products and services we need, where we need them — they are integral to our communities. These are the businesses that provide jobs, they sponsor our fairs, festivals and our sports teams, and support our communities through their taxes.
According to Industry Canada, this country is home to over 1.14 million small businesses. While big businesses might get the spotlight and the high profile government handouts, it turns out that most Canadian businesses are in fact, 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 business account for 86.2 percent 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.
If you look around your town, chances are the majority of businesses are small. But when you look beyond the storefronts, there are many more small businesses. For example, in the rural staple sectors of agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, small businesses rule. Of the 47,397 businesses recorded by Statistics Canada’s December 2015 Business Register, 47,121 had less than 100 employees.
Customers are spoiled for choice, but every choice has an impact, beyond where you buy your widgets. Beyond the concerns of price and availability, a consumer needs to think about where their money is going. Will it be reinvested in the community or go out of country? Will it benefit workers or further enrich multi-millionaires? Will it help expand the products and services available to the consumer? These never used to be concerns, but times have changed. Our small businesses do need to work to earn their customers’ support, but customers also need to recognize the impact of their spending.
While the internet has allowed Amazon to bring its low prices to any rural resident, the internet has also allowed businesses located in rural communities, especially those in niche or speciality markets, to sell far beyond their natural market. The internet is not all bad for small businesses.
Small businesses bring life to our communities — their owners live here and want to see their community flourish. They want to employ people and see their town host events and grow. They want to make a living, but the bottom line isn’t the only thing that matters.
As you wrap up your Christmas shopping season, think about what you’ve bought, beyond the gifts. Have you spent your money on a vibrant community?