Friday, 07 December 2012 16:15

Community Futures Southwest provides support for entrepreneurs

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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A positive feeling about the economy in southwest Saskatchewan is resulting in a significant increase in loan applications to the Community Futures Southwest office in Swift Current.

The organization supports economic development in the region through assistance to entrepreneurs. It had a solid start to its 2012/13 financial year, which began on April 1, with 14 loans being advanced for $613,000.
Community Futures Southwest General Manager John Parker said these loans helped to start 11 new businesses and to create 15 jobs.
“We’ve had a very successful six months,” he mentioned. “We’ve had
a number of referrals from existing clients and the communities themselves.”
Community Futures Southwest is currently considering another
10 applications for loans and business advisory services.
“This first six months has probably been our best in the last five years,” he said. “There’s a positive feeling about the economy, but what we’re seeing are a lot of young entrepreneurs and they’re coming in with very good business plans.”
This positive attitude appears to be prevalent in most economic sectors in the southwest. Community Futures Southwest has done sector investment in agricultural processing, the hospitality industry, business and personal services and the restaurant sector.
Parker said a partnership with another Community Futures office has resulted in support for Prairie Berries, a producer of various products from Saskatoon berries.
Other businesses benefitting from Community Futures Southwest loan support are C & C Performance and Repair as well as Magnum Plumbing and Heating in Shaunavon, SJ’s Vac Service in Maple Creek and Artistic Expressions Custom Framing in
Swift Current.
“They’re seeing opportunity and we’re there as a development agency to help them fulfill their dreams,”
he said. “In a lot of instances traditional financing is not available for new businesses, so we’ve taken
the position that our job is to do partnerships with financial institutions.”
The maximum amount Community Futures Southwest will allocate is $150,000 by way of loans, equities and guarantees. Some start-up loans have been for as little as $3,500 but in general the amounts are in the $45,000 to $50,000 range.
The organization will also provide assistance through various business advisory services to ensure that entrepreneurs have a viable business plan.
Another focus for Community Futures Southwest is to provide financial support for community projects such as beautification programs. There were 23 applications with a total value of around $25,000 this year. In total, 19 were approved for a total amount of $15,000.
About half of the applications received this year were from communities working on projects associated with their centennial celebrations. According to Parker, the aim was to assist as many applicants as possible.
“So we cut some back and not everybody got the full amount they applied for,” he said.
Community Futures Southwest continues to be involved with the Highway 4 trade corridor initiative.
It is a member of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance and Parker attended a number of meetings in recent months to discuss the initiative.
“We’ve determined that we’re going to work with the City (of Swift Current) to bring the business plan
up to speed and add a few more things in,” he said.
In an effort to promote entrepreneurship among youth, Community Futures Southwest participated in the first provincial “How to improve your Community” competition for Grade 12 students. The closing date for this competition was Nov. 30 and the $5,000 grand prize winner will be announced in December.
Parker said they are also giving more attention to promoting the
“Just Watch Me” contest for entrepreneurs with a disability who have a business success story to share. Website just opened Dec. 3 for submissions.

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