The Parry Sound Area’s Community Business & Development Centre (CB&DC) took the spotlight at last night’s (Tuesday) Business After Hours (BAH) event.
The free event is held on a semi-regular basis by the Parry Sound Area Chamber of Commerce to showcase local projects, organizations and businesses.
Janice Heidman, General Manager at the CB&DC Parry Sound Area, says Tuesday’s attendees learned a bit more about the national program, Community Futures (CFs).
“There are 267 CFs across Canada, there’s 24 in Northern Ontario and we are funded from the federal government. So up here we’re funded through FedNor for our operation. CFs, in general, do things like free business counselling, we [also] offer access to capital,” she says.
Heidman says the CB&DC’s role in local economic development is played through its Access-to-Capital program for business lending and social enterprises.
“Our whole goal with that is for businesses to grow, sustain or start and create jobs in the community. One of the big things we can do to help businesses is our lending program. We don’t have free money or grants, we are a lender. And we are what we like to call a developmental lender, we look at lending opportunities for businesses from a different lens from a mainstream financial institution,” she says.
Heidman says the organization looks at all the same things banks look at; they just turn it on its head.
“Where a mainstream institution is really going to make sure that they look at collateral first. We also look at collateral security, but it’s not the only thing we look at and it’s not the most important thing. We’re really here to learn about the business and what your plans are,” she says.
To be a client with the organization, she says you should have already talked to your bank, and if they can’t help you, that’s when you go to the CB&DC.
“A good example of that is if you’re a startup business, the banks can’t lend you in a startup role because you don’t have the history. They’re usually looking for a couple of years of business history, financials and all that sort of stuff. But we support startups, we can lend money to startups as well as to businesses that are looking to maybe expand or grow,” she says.
Heidman says one of the most common questions she gets is what kinds of things are important and might be concerning or might stop them from applying.
“And the answer to all of that, and always our biggest message, is talk to us. Because first off, we are flexible, we have the ability to be flexible with who and how we lend to. So maybe you’ve had something that’s happened to you in the past in your business and you’re worried that would be a reason for us to say no. We don’t have any automatic “No”. We want you to talk to us because the things that might be a block that you think might be a block, might not be a block,” she says.
Heidman says the organization also participates in things like strategic planning for local projects.
“Usually, we’re sort of a voice at the table when there’s something going on in the community. We’re interested in the economic development of our community sort of on a small sea level. So not so much like a regional economic development office which is looking at the big picture. We’re looking at sort of the very grassroots local level and at what’s going on and how we can help support that,” she says.
Heidman says one of the things community members seem to not know is just how active the CB&DC is in the community.
“We’ve been in existence since 1987. Since then we have invested $30.5 million in our community in total lending, almost $54 million leveraged, so we always look for equity from the owners or maybe they’re also borrowing in other ways… and over 2,600 jobs created or maintained since we started,” she says.
Heidman says the organization has about $10 million of active lending in the community right now, adding “and we have more money available to lend,”.