Thursday, 25 September 2014

Strengthening our economic backbone


As I have met Ward 6 residents at their doors over the past many months, one of the most frequent concerns I have heard is about the job situation in London. 

People are concern on their own behalf, on their children’s behalf, or just on their city’s behalf.  We have seen large employers like Kellogg’s and Electro-Motive shut down with nothing replacing these good-paying careers.

It becomes easy to feel disheartened; however, tremendous opportunity also exists. Small business drives economic growth and is the backbone of the economy nationwide, making up 98% of all businesses in Canada. By supporting existing small businesses and guiding start-ups toward success, we can help people find satisfying employment doing what they love.


I’d like to tell you my own story.

After working for a manufacturer of solar energy equipment for three years, I was laid off in a round of downsizing in 2009. Like so many other Londoners, I wasn't sure where to begin. The news was full of bleak economic stories about how jobs were hard to come by. There was very little work to be found in our Forest City at the time, and I had to apply for employment insurance.

At the same time, I didn't want to let the knowledge I had gained about solar energy go to waste. After a couple months of soul-searching, and with support from London’s Small Business Centre, I started my business. SunTap Technologies installs solar energy systems, like the ones my former employer manufactured. In the five years since I started the company, I've had the opportunity to employ several local people, mentor five co-op students, and purchase goods and services from other local businesses.

I was able to make a fulfilling career for myself, but I couldn't have done it without help. The Small Business Centre program was a great start, but we need to do more to foster entrepreneurship in London.

I’d like to see the London Economic Development Corporation focus more on business start-ups to create local ventures that employ local people. We also need organizations like the LEDC and the Small Business Centre to work more closely together to encourage entrepreneurship and see start-ups become fulfilling job-creating operations.

I’d also like to see the city offer entrepreneurs short-term subsidies to help new local businesses, such as offering low-rent office or retail space to soften the impact on start-up costs. The business would agree to pay full rent after a certain period of time or when they reach a certain level of income.

We also need to ensure an adequate number of affordable daycare spaces are available so that parents can properly manage their work life, whether that’s starting a business or looking for employment.

Much of the money a small business earns is spent locally. That means that when we support an existing or start-up local business, the benefits don't stop there:  local ventures spend money at other local ventures. People with jobs spend money in the local economy. All this helps make our city more prosperous and a desirable place to live, work, play, and stay.

Of course, there is a plethora of initiatives London can implement to support jobs and economic growth  I’ve proposed a few of them in my platform  but supporting entrepreneurship is an important first step. Let’s help people build fulfilling careers for themselves, and support our city at the same time.