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Supporting our small business entrepreneurs in their recovery
Almost overnight the lives of Cape Bretoners were changed dramatically by the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the globe. As reported by Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer, there are now reported COVID-19 cases in every region of the province. That means we now have cases in Cape Breton.
One has only to go to their once-bustling downtowns to notice the significant drop in storefront openings and fewer people on the sidewalks during daylight hours. These are scary and uncertain times for most of us for sure but more especially for those who have lost their jobs or had to shutter their business to comply with directives set by the province during the declared state of emergency. Nova Scotia’s largest employer, Michelin Tire, just laid off 3,500 workers due to economic decline.
And because living in a time of pandemic spread is so uncertain no one call tell us when to expect normalcy to return to the streets of our communities. These times of unknown are certain to cause great stress and anxiety in the best of us.
While we do not yet know a timeline, COVID-19 will pass. When it does, we will have to pick up the pieces of our economy, mourn our losses and try our best to put things back together. We have all seen images of the devastation of tornadoes in the mid-west states, of wildfires in Fort McMurray, earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan. But not many of us living today have personally witnessed the ravages of a global pandemic.
All of these incidents can cause significant losses of life and the destruction of billions of dollars in infrastructure. But in each of these very difficult circumstances, we mostly see the best of mankind and the resilience of neighborhoods.
Yes, there are a few exceptions of thieves taking advantage of the vulnerable, the unscrupulous hoarding for personal gain, and those that won’t practice social distancing. But for the most part, we see neighbors calling one another on the phone to check if they need anything or to break the boredom of self isolation with a cheery conversation. And we see people avoiding gatherings, practicing social distancing and lending both moral and financial support to those that need it the most. All are necessary actions for our health and safety.
My adult children are entrepreneurs and have growing small businesses in Cape Breton. They are single parents and have been forced to close their business doors due to COVID-19. That will create financial hardship for them and their families. And it will deny services to their valued customers. Much uncertainty now surrounds the future of their once-thriving enterprises.
While we do not yet know a timeline, COVID-19 will pass.
Many other small business owners across Cape Breton face the same uncertain future. Think of the local café owner, the local hair salon, the live theatre owners, the musicians who no longer have a performance venue, the local hotel owner, and the many employees that work in these businesses who have been laid off indefinitely. Many of these small businesses operate on week-to-week cash flow for survival. The impacts, both personal and economic, grow deeper the longer COVID-19 resides in our communities.
Small business is a major creator of wealth and a source of employment for new Canadians. It offers new arrivals to Cape Breton an avenue to contribute to the growth of their community and also the wellbeing of their own families. The driver of our Canadian economy is small business.
A total of 99.8 per cent of all Canadian businesses are small to medium-sized firms with less than 500 employees. Most of the startup funding for a small business comes from personal savings or equity (for example re-mortgaging a home), close family and friends who believe in the entrepreneur, debt financing, and angel or venture capital financing.
So, you can understand how unnerving the unknown of global pandemic spread can be for a small business owner and their financial backers. Especially new small business owners in their early years of operation that may not have yet built up enough financial reserves to last more than a few weeks without revenue.
Small businesses account for over 40 per cent of the private sector payroll and makeup over 30 per cent of Canada’s GDP. They are the economic life of many communities across this country. Most of Cape Breton depends on their success and the money the employees of these small businesses inject into our economy every week buying groceries, cars, coffee, gas, etc. After the government-run sectors of health care and education, small business is what stimulates our Cape Breton economy.
The federal government is working on the speedy delivery of a financial aid package for small business owners and their employees. It is too soon in the life of this pandemic to tell if this will be enough help to avoid the financial collapse of many of these small business owners or support their employees.
But once we do get the “all clear” signal to resume normal life (and we will) after the pandemic subsides it will be up to those of us still standing to get out into the community to patronize your local restaurant, get a hair cut, support a local retailer, and attend a live theatre performance to help support these enterprises in their recovery so they remain assets of our community. After all, we are all in this together, aren’t we?
Adrian White is CEO of NNF Inc, Business Consultants. He resides Sydney & Baddeck and can be contacted at [email protected].