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Small businesses, big voices

Ontario chamber report shows small businesses just want to be heard
Kathy McNeil, owner of Total Nursing Care Inc. sat on the panel for the Ontario chamber's new report
Kathy McNeil

Gilles Lebeau dreams of a utopia where the government shows up at the door of small businesses and wants to help.

“It's called the public service. I'd love it if they had a serving attitude,” said Lebeau, vice-president of Milman Industries Inc. in Sudbury.

While Lebeau's not holding out for that utopia, he does hope that the government will listen closer to the needs of small business after the launch of Obstacles and Opportunities: The Importance of Small Business in Ontario, an Ontario Chamber of Commerce report, released in Sudbury on Oct. 28.

The report incorporates data gathered during months of consultations, which were based on a report from earlier in 2016, The Top 3 Obstacles to Small Business Success, which identified a lack of access to workers, infrastructure gaps, and the rising cost of business as primary concerns.

The final report echoed these three major concerns and presented more detailed recommendations than the initial report.

The recommendations largely centred on encouraging improved communication between different levels of government, and more communication with businesses themselves.

The Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and its members played a large role in the consultations, with some participating in a panel discussion at the Oct. 28 event.

The panelists expressed satisfaction with the report, and optimism about next steps

. “I feel they were able to put their finger on the pulse about what small business were saying,” said Kathy McNeil, owner of Total Nursing Care. “I have a very small voice and I can feel alone, being in collaboration with the Ontario Chamber, I felt maybe we have a chance at being heard.”

“This is an opportunity for government and the business community to work together,” said moderator Kelly Scott, general manager at Barrydowne Paint.

Allan O'Dette, Ontario chamber president, said the upcoming provincial election cycle, moving toward the fall 2018 vote, will be a time when government is especially willing to listen to those voices as they put together their platforms.

“Small businesses are looking for government to do a better job,” said O'Dette. “We'll be working to make sure that small businesses voices are heard.”