© Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer
Developer Peter Brown and Jane Sharpe, executive director of the Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce, are optimistic about the future of small businesses in Summerside and across the province.
SUMMERSIDE – The Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce and a local developer are not intimidate by figures released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that show P.E.I at the bottom of the list in terms of performance.
Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses’ (CFIB) director of provincial affairs, said the Island the Business Barometer index of 47.6 in September is by far the lowest reading of any of the provinces.
The 28 per cent of business owners who say their businesses are doing well are identically matched by the 28 per cent who say their firms are performing poorly. Short-term hiring expectations show the same cancelling effect.
Nationally, small business optimism in September gave back most of the gains it had made in August, but it still counts as one of the better results so far in 2013.
CFIB's Business Barometer Index dropped 1.4 points to 64.5 this month; however, only January, February and August saw higher index values.
“In my conversations with business owners, I’m not seeing negativity,” said Jane Sharpe, executive director of the Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce. “I’m seeing caution. When I look at economic indicators, I’m not necessarily seeing anything that would be driving the number down. So, I just think it’s part of our caution.”
Sharpe said P.E.I. lagging behind is nothing new, but the province tends to rebound as time goes on.
“When I look at the year-over-year, if you look at the trends … the first part of the year, it always goes down,” she said. “Then it comes up again. This year, it might be taking a little bit longer to come up. We’ll have to wait and see if that happens again.
“We definitely see some lag. If you go back to 2009 you saw the national average go down much more quickly than ours did. Hopefully, we’ll start to see some optimism coming back.”
Summerside developer Peter Brown shares Sharpe’s outlook.
“I have some cautious optimism and the cautious optimism is not based on the pulse beat or the actual cash flow of today,” Brown said. “We’re at a tipping point and we could either tip up or tip down. The planks of the platform are in place to solidify where we’re at.”
He said the aerospace industry is showing positive signs, particularly with Vector Aerospace, and Holland College moving to the downtown.
“While it’s not an instant game changer the enthusiasm of the business community and the willingness to say we’ve got to change and catch-up and the willingness of the city adopting the incentive program for the enhanced downtown. That’s major.”
Brown he had argued for that program for years and finally, the city’s economic development department brought the program in.
“It’s not so much the program but the pulse beat I get from the city saying we want to do what you need us to do.
“We’ve got to chase families. I know the province talks immigration, but why don’t we go after a bunch of families because we are a family-oriented community. We’ve got Credit Union Place. We’ve got schools and all kinds of good stuff here for families.”
Brown said families tend to spend more money at local businesses than seniors.
“With kids and families with one or two livelihoods and they spend money,” he said. “From our side, as developers, we are cautiously optimistic.”