The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has released a new report aimed at eliminating the hurdles preventing businesses in the province from expanding, or “scaling up.”
The report, titled Breaking Barriers: Ontario’s Scale Up Challenge, identifies six barriers holding back businesses, including a lack of access to talent with scale up experience, few incentives offered through public programs, and a lack of sufficient engagement with new markets and international trade.
“Scaling up,” according to the OCC, is when a firm experiences “average annualized growth rates in employment or revenue greater than 20 per cent per year, over a three-year period, and if it had 10 or more employees at the beginning of the period.”
For the report, the Chamber surveyed over 350 business owners in the province between Mar. 3 and Apr. 11, and drew from interviews conducted with nearly two dozen business owners, sector associations, and other organizations.
“We’re not scaling up these small businesses as rapidly as our competition is, and as rapidly as our economy needs,” said Gerry McCartney, CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce, who partnered with the OCC for the report, in an interview Thursday. “If we don’t do something about that, we may end up with a lot of entrepreneurs that stay very small and who don’t contribute as much as they might to the overall economy.”
Worse still, he continued, if entrepreneurs can’t find a way to grow, they may either collapse or look elsewhere to do business.
“We need to convince the government that there are things they can do to help change that environment, to make sure that business community and other stakeholders are aware of what the issues are.”
Those issues include gaps in certain financing needed by entrepreneurs to scale up, and a lack of incentives to grow being offered through public or government programs, McCartney said.
“The main one, of course, is the lack of access to talent with that kind of scale up experience that young entrepreneurs and start-up entrepreneurs need,” McCartney said. “Yes there are a lot of people looking for work, but they have to be the right kind of people with the right kind of skills, and that’s where that gap is right now.”
The report lists six recommendations in total that the province could consider to help improve the situation, including:
- Improve access to talent by working with the federal government to create a scale-up visa to accelerate access to qualified international candidates
- Improve access to financing by first gaining a better understanding of existing gaps
- Ensure public programs and incentives are aligned to encourage businesses to scale up by: a) Focusing supports on high-growth firms and those with high-growth potential, and b) Delaying taxation on corporate income growth
“There’s lots of things the government could do,” McCartney said. “New programs, new ways to incent these entrepreneurs to do that, (and) provide the talent that we find short in some areas. That’s really what this paper is all about, is to get the government looking down this path.”
All six barriers and recommendations can be found in the full report here.