Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin staff (back row left) Larry Stranberg

Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin staff (back row left) Larry Stranberg

Community Futures celebrates 30 years of supporting business

Joining offices across the country, Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin is celebrating 30 years.

Joining offices across the country, Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin is celebrating 30 years of helping sustain small and grassroots businesses.

“A study done in 2014 about Community Futures showed we are still really valid,” said Karen Eden, general manager.

The office in Williams Lake will hold an open house Thursday, Oct. 22 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., showcasing past client successes, many of whom are on the board now.

A lot of people go through the program and are happy to give back, Eden said.

Several Community Futures were launched across Canada in 1985 and initially there were 24 in B.C.

Today there are 34 in B.C. and 90 in Western Canada.

Each organization is an independent not-for-profit and the Cariboo Chilcotin office covers 70 Mile to McLeese Lake and Bella Coola to Horsefly and Likely.

All CFs are board driven.

Presently realtor Glen Holling is the board’s chair, joined by directors representing geographic areas and sectors.

There is also a loan committee that reviews loan applications and a self-employment committee reviewing business plans.

Core funding for CFs come from Western Economic Diversification Canada, and from there each office delivers programs for other organizations.

One of those is the self-employment program, but in order to access it people need referrals.

Community Futures helps entrepreneurs looking to start, grow or maintain businesses, and pushes for succession planning.

“We also work with communities on their economic development, for example we have been working with Likely and the challenges they have faced over the Mount Polley Mine breach,” Eden said.

On average the regional office delivers 37 business loans per year, helping to create and maintain 88 jobs.

In 30 years, 1,450 self-employment businesses have had help with start ups and more than $226,000 has gone toward regional initiatives such as the Bella Coola Festival and Arts on the Fly.

Eden is also very proud of their 4-H program where more than $200,000 has gone out in interest free loans that are repaid after the show and sale.

She has seen six-year-olds come in with a 4-H loan application, signed by a parent of course.

“It takes the pressure off for families and gives a child the experience of getting a loan and repaying it,” Eden said.