Small business is an essential part of British Columbia's economy - representing 98 per cent of all industry and generating more than 26,000 new jobs in the province during the past five years alone.
That is why small businesses are a key focus of the $500 million Canada Starts Here: BC Jobs Plan, a comprehensive new initiative that also includes skills training, innovative efforts to expand global markets for B.C. products and services, and close partnership with employers and communities on job creation.
The impetus is that the demand for workers is projected to grow faster than the labour force in every region of B.C. for the next decade. And most of these jobs will be in companies employing fewer than five people.
The first step to aid small business hiring is creating the right environment, according to Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, who calls it "clearing the path for jobs."
To this end, the province now provides the lowest personal income taxes in Canada for those earning up to $80,000 a year. In fact, B.C. residents have one of the lowest overall tax burdens in Canada.
This means more investment money for small businesses and more spending money for their customers, Bell explained.
Investor tax credit
In direct aid to small business, B.C. recently added $3 million to its $30-million tax-credit program for 2012, 2013, and 2014 under the jobs ministry.
Investors in an eligible business can receive a 30-per-cent tax credit of up to $60,000 a year.
So, if they invest $200,000, the amount they're risking is reduced to $140,000. The extra $3 million allows for up to $10 million more equity capital for businesses that qualify.
"If you look at all of the work that has gone on since the program was introduced," said Bell, "about half a billion dollars has been raised by small business. Well over 500 businesses out there are utilizing the program."
Richmond-based Emergent Waste Solutions, a small firm that has developed technology that uses heat to convert carbon-based waste into valuable byproducts, is among the companies that have applied for the tax credits.
Emergent CEO Kevin Hull was impressed when he called to sign on.
"I don't think I've ever seen a better example of client service anywhere," Hull said.
Emergent's application was approved in five days.
Small is big
In some cases it is more modest help for small business - such as free business planning, financial advice, training and seminars offered through Small Business BC - that turn a start-up into a success story.
One example is the young owners of The Juice Truck in Vancouver, who ran their business plan past the experts at Small Business BC and ended up with a winning business formula.
Yet, small business job creation also benefits from big-wave provincial initiatives that ripple into small business ventures across the province.
For Vanderhoof-based Gulbranson Logging Ltd. it was B.C.'s innovative Carbon Offset Aggregation Cooperative (COAC) that made a huge difference.
The 75-employee company received a low-interest $250,000 loan from COAC that covered the entire cost of modifications to Gulbranson's fleet of 47 trucks and equipment to make them more fuel-efficient.
Company president Mel Gulbranson estimates the retrofit will save his family-owned firm about $350,000 per year in fuel costs.
Two B.C. initiatives to support the agriculture industry and promote foreign trade came together for Delta farmer and small businessman Terry Bremner, owner of Bremner Foods Ltd.
Bremner, a blueberry grower, is now shipping tonnes of his produce to Korea, Japan and, recently, China.
Bremner and other farmers are given help through Agrifoods BC to sell internationally via export training seminars and overseas trade missions.
They also get help in lining up connections.
As well, the $22-billion Pacific Gateway Transportation Plan - which includes upgrades to Delta highways and ports - has improved access to keep B.C. goods moving.
The overall BC Jobs Plan will unabashedly seek a wide range of means - large or small - to promote small business employment.
And it is working, Bell said.
In the past year alone, more than 51,700 new jobs have been generated in B.C., the majority in the small business sector.
Businesses are being asked for their feedback on the BC Jobs Plan. The new BC Small Business Accord draws on input to help make the plan more effective. To join the discussion and offer suggestions, visit http://www.bcjobsplan.ca/bc-small-business-accord-survey.
By the numbers
- 26,500: jobs created by small business in B.C. (2006-2011)
- 51,700: jobs created in B.C. in the past year, most in small business
- 385,100: number of small businesses in B.C.
- $500 million: amount raised by small business under B.C.'s investor tax credit program
- 82 per cent: small businesses with fewer than five employees
56 per cent: amount of B.C. private sector jobs in small businesses
- 18.5 per cent the share of self-employed in B.C., the highest rate in the country