by Sandra Hollingsworth
Does Sault Ste. Marie have the business culture to support an entrepreneurial environment? For years the trend in many Northern Ontario communities has been the establishment of big-box stores and government agencies, which provide limited long-term growth. Sandra Hollingsworth, candidate for Ward 2 City Councillor, feels that more can be done to strengthen the culture of entrepreneurialism in Sault Ste. Marie.
“It is imperative for the long-term economic health of the community that the cultural attitude towards entrepreneurship is changed and supported. Entrepreneurship can be one of the main economic forces for our community” says Hollingsworth. With the recent city unemployment rate at 7.0% (published by Algoma Workforce Investment Corporation), Hollingsworth would like to see a strategic economic plan for both the short and long-term.
According to the National Commission of Entrepreneurship, there are entrepreneurship growth companies and microenterprises. Entrepreneurship growth companies are small businesses that have potential of growing rapidly, developing new technologies, products and services, creating jobs, and stimulating economic growth and investment. Microenterprises are sole proprietor partnerships or family businesses that employ fewer than 5 people. Both have the ability to contribute positively to Sault Ste. Marie’s economy. In order for this to happen, entrepreneurship needs to be given greater recognition as a means to revitalize a community such as Sault Ste. Marie.
There is some evidence that entrepreneurship exists in Sault Ste. Marie. In June 2013, 8:56 Ltd. a film production, web-development and digital marketing company was formed by young entrepreneurs Alexander Wood and Josh Ingram. Today, they employ ten team members, where the average age is 26. Recently, it has been announced that 8:56 Ltd. will be the official international public relations agency and videographers for the Qatar International Boat Show (QIBS). Hollingsworth says that it is this type of start-up business that has managed to “reverse the bleed” (keeping young professionals) in our city and are net contributors to the global economy.
In addition, the Sault College Youth Entrepreneurship Skills (YES) Project began in March of 2014, offering a number of training sessions throughout Algoma, from Wawa to Manitoulin Island, supporting more than 70 young entrepreneurs to develop and implement their small business plans in the community. There is no cost to the participant for either tuition fees or course materials.
Nurturing an environment that fosters entrepreneurship is critical for the future of Sault Ste. Marie. The community needs to continue to leverage entrepreneurs with their new ideas by removing potential barriers and fostering a supportive culture for entrepreneurialism.