Windsor middle of pack in study of Canada's best entrepreneurial communities

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Windsor Star/Grace Macaluso

Article with Video

 

Felicia Doucet has seen a steady climb in sales since opening up a storefront operation in Windsor for her spray tanning business.

Life as a fledgling entrepreneur has gone relatively smoothly, she said, except for one complaint: the $500 in total fees required by the city for an outdoor, A-frame sign used to advertise daily specials.

“The sidewalk is considered public property but I thought, ‘Wow that’s steep.’”

Windsor is among 121 urban centres ranked in an annual study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that looks at the country’s best entrepreneurial communities.

With an overall score of 55.4 out of 100 Windsor ranked 62nd, just below Quesnel, B.C., (61) but ahead of Hamilton (67), Chatham-Kent (84), London (89) and Sarnia (119).

Leamington was ranked 15th overall with a score of 67.3.

Top spot was occupied by municipalities surrounding Calgary, while Montreal was dead last.

Rankings used more than a dozen indicators to assess a city’s entrepreneurial environment. They were based on three factors such as the concentration of entrepreneurs and startup rate, level of optimism among business owners and supportive or harmful local government tax and regulatory policies.

Windsor, which was grouped with major centres, did well when it came to local governments with polices supportive of business. The city cracked the top 10 list in that category by securing eighth spot. But, the city received low marks when it came to the concentration of entrepreneurs and startup rate.

In the mid-size category, Leamington ranked first for municipalities with diverse economies that have plenty of  startups and show above-average growth in the number of business establishments. It also ranked high on business satisfaction.

Leamington has bounced back from the last year’s closure of the H.J. Heinz plant, the town’s biggest employer, said Ted Mallett, vice-president and chief economist at CFIB.

“Businesses there tend to be very optimistic,” Mallett said, noting that Leamington scored 28 out of 35 on that variable. It also has a relatively high concentration of businesses and startups — an area in which Windsor received lower scores, said Mallett.

“The stronger the entrepreneurial base, the better the community can withstand an economic shock,” he said.

While Windsor passed its seventh consecutive budget with a zero per cent property tax hike, it imposes a heavier burden on businesses compared to residents,  said Mallett.

“In Windsor, a commercial property valued at $200,000 will pay 2.57 times the level of tax than that of a $200,000 residential property,” he said.

Matt Marchand, CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, said his organization is working with the city to alleviate red tape faced by businesses.

“We’re working on speeding up processing times for development permits and city approvals on projects,” said Marchand. “There’s been some good dialogue and we’re seeing some positive results particularly on the time it takes to get permits.”

But regulatory issues are only one factor when it comes to helping out businesses. Doucet said events such as the recent SmallBiz-BigBuzz Expo enabled her to connect with customers.

The event, organized by the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre, drew more than 400 people and more than 40 local entrepreneurs.

“As an entrepreneur, starting my own business was the most rewarding decision I’ve ever made,” said Doucet, who in June opened Fake It Spray Tan and Beauty Bar on Erie Street.

“I had confidence knowing that the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre was there to support me every step of the way. Exhibiting at the Expo is just one more way the small business centre is helping me to brand and grow my business.”