Ninety-eight per cent of all businesses in B.C. are small businesses, Minister of State for Small Business Naomi Yamamoto said.
Speaking to a group of Williams Lake & District Chamber of Commerce members at a meeting in Williams Lake Oct. 9, the minister defined small business as having 50 employees or less, but said the overwhelming majority in B.C. have five employees or less.
“The small business community in B.C. accounts for more than one million jobs and about a third of B.C.’s Growth Domestic Product. For me, more importantly, when the global economic crisis hit in the latter part of 2008, small businesses only reduced the level of their employees by half a per cent.” Big business, on the other hand, reduced its employees by eight per cent, Yamamoto added.
“It tells me that in smaller towns and rural areas small business is the heart and soul of the community and they’ll do anything to keep their employees working. It’s that attitude and spirit that makes small business so important.”
B.C. leads the country in small business start-ups and the number of small businesses per capita.
Part of Yamamoto’s portfolio is deregulation, something she prefers to call “regulatory reform”.
Since 2001, the number of regulatory requirements have been reduced by 42 per cent or 150,000 regulations now off the books, she said.
“The premier has asked me to look at what else we can do, so I am trying to instill in my colleagues and the bureaucrats that we need to continually look at regulations and the regulatory burdens we have for small businesses in particular.”
Small business owners put their whole life into their businesses, juggling family life and volunteer duties, she said.
“I think government should be able to help small business save time. Time is something that is so valuable now. I want people to let me know what government can do to help small businesses survive and grow.”
Crediting the province’s lowest income tax as way that helps business, she suggested it is also up to municipal governments to consider lowering property taxes. At the Union of BC Municipalities conference in Victoria in September, Yamamoto participated in presenting awards to six B.C. communities that were recognized for being the most business friendly municipality in their region.
The winners were Smithers, Nelson, Prince George, District of North Vancouver, Nanaimo and Kamloops, a two-time winner.
“I would challenge the Chamber to see if your municipality is worthy of being nominated. There’s criteria the municipality needs to demonstrate,” Yamamoto said, adding it would be great to see Williams Lake win.
Mayor Kerry Cook encouraged members of the chamber to work with the city on ideas that would make the city more business friendly.
The chamber’s executive director Claudia Blair agreed, adding forming solid partnerships are key.
“We need to find the key to make the start, sincerely, honestly and move forward, because if we’re not, we’re just going backwards,” Blair said.
Cook also told Yamamoto that attraction and retention are big gaps recognized by the city.
“I am wondering if there’s funding for a pilot project that would help that along,” she said.
“It’s difficult for businesses outside the Lower Mainland to access capital funding,” past president Walt Cobb added.