In the Boundary region small businesses are driving employment and filling the needs for residents in a wide range of services. Starting a small business is difficult even in great economic times, but starting in a time of uncertainty is even more challenging.
Every year during small business week Community Futures (CF) Boundary takes time to salute local entrepreneurs and their efforts to make the region better at the business awards ceremony.
With 98 percent of B.C. employed in the small business sector, who better to help than the small businesses? If you help the small businesses, you’re probably going to employ somebody and that’s what keeps the Boundary vibrant along with a little help from Community Futures.
“CF does now what the banks used to – taking care of our customers. It’s about the grassroots in our communities. We’re literally helping the little guys,” said Wendy McCulloch, general manager.
Community Futures Boundary offers a wide range of services for individuals, businesses and community. While they have many programs for community development and employment services, their base is strong in supporting business creation and providing start-up loans.
Community Futures network was established in 1986 and since then their role in entrepreneurial and community development across B.C. has had a significant impact on the socio-economic development and diversification of the rural communities they serve.
CF Boundary is no exception.
“This particular CF started in 1992 with three or four employees in Greenwood,” explains McCulloch. “Over the past 10 years this office has grown to include services that other offices don’t necessarily offer, with an annual budget of about $1.5 million.”
CF Boundary’s primary reputation as a lender and supporter of community development is solid. Even though they offer an array of options for entrepreneurs, employees and employers provided by 16 staff, in 2010 alone they provided over $1 million in loans to small and medium businesses in this region.
CF Boundary has spread their wings and taken on niches programs they felt they could manage as an organization. The board, made up of local business people who can draw on their expertise, is active in approving business loans and use their skills to assist in new start-up companies.
“This particular board has recognized the difficulty that not only small business has, but industry has in the valley,” added McCulloch. “They’ve been visionary in opening the potential of our office to new programs critical to the survival of the local economy. It has been risky, you never know when something is going to be successful or not.”
Two founding board members still participate in the direction of CF Boundary – Jim Smith, from Rock Creek, and Dave Marshall of Grand Forks who is the current chair.
“We are the economic development engine for the Boundary region,” said Marshall. “Over the years we’ve assisted in the creation of a significant number of full-time jobs. If somebody comes to us with what we think is a viable idea, then we’ll commit resources to see what we can do. We have a continuity of people, and we’re not reliant on political bodies so we have a better ability to respond to community needs.”
Although the Boundary office is actually one of the smaller ones of the 30 + in B.C., they pack a punch with the number of services they offer. Wage subsidies for employers, self-employment education and support, business loans as low as less than $5,000 or in the tens of thousands, assisting people to find jobs or re-train, and programs for youth are among the options you can access when you walk into the office.
“Our strength comes from our staff and board who are from the community and they know what is happening on the ground,” said Marshall. “There was a time when nobody was focusing on economic development in the community. I felt it was important to have an organization to support growth, and I enjoy being a part of that.”
Join CF Boundary at their business awards celebration of today’s entrepreneurs at the Grand Forks Curling Club Thursday, Oct. 13 starting at 5:00 p.m. for networking and refreshments. The awards will be presented at 6:00 p.m. R.S.V.P at 250-442-2722.