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Independent business survey; PEI small business growth is stagnant

Jun 7 2013

Tim Banks, CEO of APM, disagees and sees a strong future for Island's small business

Carson, Mike. Independent business survey; PEI small business growth is stagnant, The Guardian 07 June 2013

Small business growth on Prince Edward Island has been stagnant.

A recent survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said P.E.I. is the least optimistic among Canadian provinces about the growth of small business.

The survey says Island businesses report hiring plans and business performances that are stuck in neutral, with roughly half the respondents citing weak domestic demand as the main culprit to a stalled outlook.

One Island businessman isn’t buying the survey results.

Tim Banks, CEO of APM, said he sees a strong future for Island small businesses but the province has to help.

“It surprises me somewhat,” Banks said of the survey results. “This time of the year everybody gets nervous. People are trying to get their crops in and with the lobster prices the way they were put a little fear mongering into the marketplace.

“We work right across the country and we didn’t lapse into some of the slowdown that happened in some of the other communities. I’m not too concerned about it. I think we have a great future here.”

Banks said entrepreneurs are looking at smaller markets.

“I think what’s happening, and it’s something for people to consider, is that when there was a slowdown in the economy it hurt the smaller markets first,” he said.

“There will be resurgence. There will be people looking at the smaller markets. We’ve had trouble trying to get the nationals to believe that Summerside is a good marketplace to be in. I still think it is and we’re encouraging them everyday.”

Banks will be attending the Atlantic real estate forum next month and one of the things he will be speaking to there is the opportunity in Summerside as a marketplace.

“We’ve got to get out and promote ourselves,” he said.

Banks said the provincial government has a role to play in this promotion.

“I suggested to the province that our business community on P.E.I. has lost sight of our identity,” he said. “We’ve lost part of that because our brand, small business and small business enterprise, is not recognized by the government.

“When I say ‘not recognized’, I mean they call it the Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning. My difficulty with that is that’s who we are in our business community, innovative and certainly focused on learning, but when you get down to the nuts and bolts on Prince Edward Island we are small enterprise and it’s important for people to recognize that we have a good business environment here. Some of that is self-serving in a sense that the province should be promoting it as such and talking about innovation and advanced learning is not getting it.”

Summerside got a low rating in a recent Conference Board of Canada study that showed minimal growth in the gross domestic product and a drop in employment of 4.7 per cent between 2011 and 2012.

Banks said as much as some people want to revive the downtown as the retail core, it is the growth in the city’s north end that fuels business development.

“One of the things that’s got to be said about Summerside is one of the things that I have found is that when a multi-national comes to town and starts talking about the marketplace, there’s a group that wants to keep saying ‘downtown Summerside,’ he said.

“Pick where the market is. If they’re trying to lure a retail to downtown it’s just not going to materialize. The strength in Summerside is our regional shopping centre and focus on what has been built up there that’s quite strong and could get stronger with more retailers. Then focus on the outlying areas in terms of the agricultural base and the fishery base and Slemon Park.”


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