That’s a big question we put above this editorial. While local and riding elected representatives line up to take credit when a new business opens, they are nowhere to be seen when a business closes, and are seldom in view while a business owner struggles before closing doors for good.
This week’s announcement of the Ford distribution centre in The Nation Municipality is good news, bringing, as it does, the news of 150 local jobs.
But as small businesses close in small towns, there is little fanfare, no photos and no answers, it seems.
We have written about small business openings for decades and can list dozens of ventures which have opened with great hope and almost always – an elected official present for the ribbon-cutting – but closures are often sad events.
We’re not sure if you have noticed, but businesses in small towns often simply close and are not sold to a new owner.
It is a sign that a business owner has been pouring his or her heart and soul (and time, and money) into a business that they love. Too often, the business is loved, but there just isn’t enough patronage to make it really sing.
We have a few business closures in our home town of Vankleek Hill this week and most notably, as across the country, restaurants are feeling the repercussions of COVID-19. Staffing shortages are affecting restaurants deeply just when they need to be open and to recoup some of the losses incurred over the past 18 months.
Small-town retail and many businesses have been under siege for the past decade, thanks to the shift to online shopping and online everything and the love for having items delivered to your door.
Add shortages and the lack of inventory to the struggles being faced by local businesses, add a healthy dose of impatience and you have a recipe for disaster. We have tried to shop local, we can’t find what we want and now, we’re grumpy, too.
But back to the question of the moment. Who creates jobs?
The answer? For the most part, it is you, the consumer. How you spend and where you spend really – yes, really, matters.
You cannot change a business that isn’t meeting your needs and you cannot force them to stay open for the hours that you prefer. But it is your responsibility to encourage and to ask for what you want.
As for our various levels of government, some action is needed there. Lengthy delays, endless rounds of paperwork, an attitude of enforcement and rules rather than support, guidance and an actual, “Welcome! How can we help you?” are the antithesis of economic development. Investors will go where they are welcome, not to places where they are handed a long to-do list and with a list of what they cannot do.
Out-of-town investors ask about local incentives to open a business. The answer is: none. While municipal governments in Quebec can offer incentives, we offer none.
It is time for a round-table discussion between business owners and local government. From building code demands to unaffordable commercial property taxes – it is time for business owners and local government representatives to meet and look at the obstacles on both sides.
The business expansion and retention studies have not, as yet, transformed a single community in Prescott-Russell.
It is time to find opportunities and connect business owners with our elected representatives and front-line staff, all of whom are paid by all of us.
What is being done and what needs to be done?
Let’s get down to business and find out.