Today, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC), in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), released the report, Breaking Barriers: Ontario’s Scale Up Challenge, which identifies the major roadblocks preventing Ontario businesses from expanding and presents recommendations to best support business owners in taking their ventures to the next stage of growth. According to the report, based on interviews with nearly two dozen business owners, sector associations, and other organizations, as well as a survey of over 350 Ontario business owners, too few entrepreneurs are continuing to build their business, or “scale up”, in the province.
“The focus should be converting our most promising ideas into larger and fast-growing businesses, then we capture the economic benefits of that activity. The long-term economic success of business in Ontario depends on our ability to help grow companies and assist them in positioning themselves in an international market.” said Monica Dale, President of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce.
“The release of Breaking Barriers coincides with initiatives currently underway by the governments of Canada and Ontario to help our most promising firms scale up. We have an incredible opportunity to leverage this alignment across government and the business community to tackle this challenge.” added, Allan O’Dette, President & CEO of Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
The report adds to a recent chorus of voices calling for governments, the business community, and other actors to build on the province’s entrepreneurial spirit by creating the conditions to enable our most promising firms to scale.
To position Ontario for long-term success, the report proposes recommendations to address six specific barriers preventing businesses from growing, which includes a lack of access to talent with scale up experience, gaps in the right kinds of financing, and lower incentives to growth offered through public programs.
Chief among the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber’s recommendations are for governments to improve businesses’ access to talent in the short-term by creating a scale-up visa to quicken access to essential international managerial talent. According to an OCC survey, 63 percent of businesses that are looking to grow face a talent shortage. The SSMCOC also encourages governments to gain a better understanding of where current gaps exist in the Canadian financing landscape.
“Supporting the work of innovators and entrepreneurs across the country is integral to Canada’s future productivity and economic prosperity. Canada and Ontario stand to benefit from focusing efforts on supporting our most promising new firms and helping them succeed on a global stage.” said Sean Mullin, Executive Director of the Brookfield Institute for Innovation. “BDC’s sole purpose is to help Canadian entrepreneurs succeed and grow. While our Growth and Transition Capital Team already supports many entrepreneurs with flexible, patient “scale-up” financing, we see the need for more. That is why we are already exploring additional ways we can help more entrepreneurs find the specialized financing they need to bring their business to the next level. Last year, BDC provided nearly $1.2-billion in lending to Ontario’s small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, $100-million of which was allocated to high-growth, high-potential entrepreneurs in the province.” said Jérôme Nycz, Executive Vice President of BDC Capital.
Other recommendations of the report include:
● Realign public programs and incentives to focus supports on high-growth firms
● Encourage greater international trade activity by linking more business support programs to trade
● Improve access to public and private anchor customers by leveraging procurement to strategically invest in growing businesses
● Enable accurate measurement and monitoring of the scale up challenge by ensuring collaboration between Statistics Canada and industry groups to collect and publicize relevant data
The OCC’s survey also revealed that the cost of doing business remains a top issue for Ontario employers as 69 percent of business owners looking to grow identified this as a barrier. Through its advocacy efforts on other key policy issues, the SSMCOC, in partnership with the OCC, continues to highlight the cost of doing business as a major challenge facing Ontario’s business community.