By J.W. Schnarr
Westwind Weekly News
Local entrepreneurs looking for some help getting their business off the ground or improving their existing business have a friend in Community Futures.
Darlene Sinclair, general manager for Community Futures Lethbridge Region spoke to Stirling council during their regular meeting on Nov. 2.
“Our focus is economic development that leads to business growth, expansion, or startups in the community,” she said.
The mission of CF is “To financially assist and support entrepreneurs and communities to foster economic growth,” according to their website.
CF Lethbridge Region is a non-profit organization funded in western Canada by Western Economic Diversification Canada. It has been involved in supporting the growth and diversification of small and rural business since 1986, with 27 CF offices in Alberta and 269 across Canada.
The organization provides small business services and business management tools for area residents interested in starting, expanding, franchising, or selling a business.
The organization also runs specialized business programs, business events, and works with community and business leaders to foster rural economic growth.
“We have approximately $4 million invested in communities,” said Sinclair. “We started with $2.2 million from the (federal government).
In some communities, such as in the downtown core of Lethbridge, CF has provided loans to businesses looking to improve their properties.
Sinclair said the organization has seen more bankruptcies in recent times than they have in the past. “That’s always disturbing to us,” she said. She noted in some instances, the interconnectivity of businesses can cause numerous businesses to suffer when a larger business fails.
During discussion, Sinclair told council one of her goals is to spread the word about the organization through face-to-face and word-of-mouth interaction.
“It opens the door a little bit easier,” she said. The program can be of value to residents looking for funding alternatives to traditional bank loans or with help in business planning.
“Our services are free to businesses,” she said. “If they have an idea and they want to learn how to (start the business), and where do they get the marketing and research materials from, we can certainly work with them to help build that. From there, they decide which location is right for them.”
There is also push now to get CF involved with students in school, and getting them thinking about business at a young age. This can lead to more business growth down the road.
“Starting in the schools and the high schools, and then getting them into post secondary and thinking about business a lot earlier, brings them back to their roots a lot of times,” she said.
The community Futures Lethbridge Region has information a number of different tools and programs for those starting a business and for those who have an idea that could one day be a business. Please visit their site at lethbridgeregion.albertacf.com