Immigrants Breathing New Life into New Brunswick Business

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The economic and demographic challenges faced in New Brunswick are no secret to anyone in the province. An aging and stagnant population places financial and social pressures on our province that we will not be able to handle in the not-too-distant future if we don’t act now.

The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce believes that increasing support for entrepreneurial newcomers is part of the answer to address both our economic and demographic challenges.

That’s why we launched the Business Immigrant Mentorship Program in 2009. That program introduces newcomers with local business people as mentors and instructors – helping to bridge the gap that exists between doing business in Canada and their home countries. This model has since been rolled out across New Brunswick and in several other western provinces. In 2014 we rolled out Phase 2, with the Hive Incubator. This immersive business environment gives our entrepreneurial newcomers office space and access to valuable resources – most importantly the other business people in the ecosystem.

These programs are making a big difference in our community, but they have also allowed us to identify a gap felt by both newcomer investors and existing local businesses.

Newcomers entering New Brunswick through the entrepreneurial stream face tight timelines to get a business up and running, which can lead to bad investments, poorly thought out business plans and many other issues that exacerbate the challenge of settling into a new country.

On the other hand, we are also aware that local business owners sometimes struggle with selling their businesses when it is time to retire or otherwise move on. Less than half of business owners have a succession plan, with only 9% of these being formal, written plans. Owners are concerned that announcing their business is for sale brings too much uncertainty to their operation – employees may begin looking elsewhere for employment and customers may find another similar business that they are not worried will be gone soon. Unless a family member or another close employee has been groomed to take over the business, a succession plan is usually non-existent.

This often means that businesses, the jobs they create and the taxes they produce – disappear when the owner retires.

That’s why earlier this week we launched Succession Connect – a program that seeks to match newcomers and existing business owners. In short, the program is seeking to create two databases: one of existing businesses that are for sale and one of newcomer entrepreneurs that are looking to buy an existing businesses. Getting these two groups together in a confidential and discreet manner could be the difference between a business closing or staying open AND retaining a business-minded newcomer and their families or having them move to another province. It is estimated that 75% of small business owners will retire over the next decade, with $1 trillion in business assets changing hands.

With these things in mind, I’d like to encourage everyone in the community to go out of their way to let newcomers know that we are very happy to have them here and that we are prepared to provide the support that s needed to be successful in Fredericton! The message is simple: We need them here, but more importantly we want them here. They add so much to the economic, cultural and societal fabric of our community. We are proud of our diversity and proud that they have chosen Fredericton as their new home.

As part of this effort of inclusion and support, we are thrilled to be able to offer this program in Fredericton as a pilot. If it as successful as we think it will be, it may be rolled out to other communities in the province. Being able to match a newcomer seeking to purchase a business with an owner looking to sell can save that business, the jobs it creates and the tax dollars it produces. This initiative is a win-win at all levels, but we need the community’s help to make the program as effect as possible. Do you know a business owner that is looking at retirement? Let us know! We may be able to provide the perfect solution that fits our vision perfectly – Community Prosperity Through Business.