David Coburn

David Coburn

New markets near and far for North Coast businesses

The province is supporting a pilot project for small and mid-sized businesses in Prince Rupert looking to grow their operations.

Small and mid-sized businesses in Prince Rupert looking to grow their operations will have an easier time linking up their enterprise with new markets with a $250,000 injection of funds from the Province of B.C.’s Rural Economic Development Strategy.

Community Futures in Prince Rupert will be running the pilot program with the Ministry of International Trade and Responsible for Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism called ‘Export Navigator’, which is being set up at Community Futures in Prince Rupert.

The advisor with the program will work out of Community Futures to connect export-ready small and mid-sized goods and service businesses with programs, services and contacts that they may need. They will also work with service providers in Terrace, Kitimat and Haida Gwaii that are exploring new markets.

The Kootenay Boundary region also benefits from the funding, and the South Okanagan and northeastern B.C. will be supported.

“We’re really excited about [the program] and the roots of this, for us, is that Prince Rupert and the North Coast is a relatively small market. So if a medium-sized business really wants to be sustainable and grow, they need to look at expanding into other markets, and that may be over to Calgary, or that may be as far away as Shanghai,” said John Farrell, Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest general manager.

Eli Kelly, business coordinator with Community Futures will be taking the lead on the program in Prince Rupert with other staff supporting him.

“What this program does is it helps businesses navigate and figure out where those markets are, how can they reach them and how do they need to present their product and their service, what resources will they need that will help them do that,” Farrell said.

“We’ll be directing them to those people that are experts in the areas that they need more information and they need connections … And those markets can be inter-provincial or off to China, or down to the United States or into Europe,” he said, adding there has already been interest by five businesses just in Prince Rupert alone without any marketing of the program just yet (it’s still in its early stages).

Since October 2016, the pilot program has been launched in Prince George, Vernon, Comox and Port Alberni. The funding will be used until an end date of Sept. 30, 2017, where the province will evaluate feedback and data from the Export Navigator program and determine its feasibility in other areas of B.C.

Ideal businesses for the program are those that have the ability to scale up operations and can adapt to different markets. Self-funding is also necessary for any expansion.

Some areas where the program will help new and existing businesses are in the export stages, like logistics, customs certifications, financing and more. Export Navigator is part of B.C.’s #BCTECH strategy, a component of the BC Jobs Plan to grow the technology and innovation sector of the province’s economy.

Thirty-one companies made it into the program between October and December, with overall 2016 B.C. goods exports representing $39.4 billion, an increase of 9.8 per cent from the year before.