BDC President Impressed With Thunder Bay Economy
by Scott A. Sumner
BDC President and CEO, Michael Denham, was in Thunder Bay July 24th and 25th meeting with local business leaders and the Thunder Bay Economic Development Commission (CEDC), as well as taking part in a roundtable discussion with women entrepreneurs.
Business Development Bank of Canada is a long time partner to businesses in Thunder Bay and has been working alongside entrepreneurs
in the region for over 55 years, helping grow their businesses and stimulating the economy in northwestern Ontario. BDC is a crown corporation with a mandate of supporting entrepreneurs.
I asked him some questions during a phone interview.
What is your impression of the current business climate in Thunder Bay?
“ I am impressed and havea sense the economy has evolved over the years and is much more diversified. The clients I have met with have a real bounce in their step, lots of growth, and lots of activity. Our team here in Thunder Bay was one of the highest performing business centers across BDC in Canada out of our 120 offices that show how many projects are happening, economic activity and investments. The impression I have is positive.”
Do you see any challenges on the horizon for Thunder Bay and area?
“ The one challenge that comes up everywhere I go has to do with the labour shortage. It is a chronic issue in Canada, finding the people entrepreneurs need to support their growth. At any time there are hundreds of thousands of empty positions. Entrepreneurs can’t find all the people they need. The labour shortage issue is the most important. If we look ahead we don’t see this changing. The growth of the labour force in Canada is close to zero over the upcoming years. We need to get more people in the work force such as immigrants, foreign students, indigenous people and seniors who could participate.”
What about technology in business and the changes we are experiencing?
“ It is an area where we at BDC are very focused on digital readiness and e-commerce capability. We feel Canadian companies need to invest>more on digital technologies, be more innovative and agile and therefore competitive. Our research indicate only 4 out of 10 companies can do e- commerce, where as 2/3 to 3/4 of Canadians buy that way so it is a good way to tap into that demand. We need to help entrepreneurs take the steps to become more digital and to do e-commerce. I had a lunch with 12 women entrepreneurs today and we spent half our time talking about steps to do e-commerce.”
How would BDC help a specific business in Thunder Bay with E Commerce?
“ Two ways- we do financing and provide advice and advisory service. E-commerce requires some expense and that is the type of growth-oriented project we would look to fund. At the same time it important to offer advise on how to do this properly and through our advisory services group we can connect entrepreneurs to this type of expertise.”
The advisory services make you unique as a bank?
“ That is part of it but we are unique in many ways. For example we are the only bank that focuses entirely on entrepreneurs. The advisory >service is defiantly unique. We do about 1800 advisory projects per year across the country. It is very important part of what we do and becoming increasing more required. We have a mix of internal BDC people and independent third party consultants.”
The BDC has done very well and today you released your annual report.
“ It was a good year. Our number of clients is up 7%. The amount of capital we committed is up over 10%. The number of loans up 8%. It means we are helping more entrepreneurs and the more of a difference we make and are contributing to the fabric of the country. Collectively it is over 1 million jobs and $350 billion in revenue. I would like to see those totals grow to make more of a difference. We like the growth of entrepreneurs in Canada.”