Province launches new small business initiative

 Don Scott in front of the Alberta Legislature building. PHOTO: Supplied

Don Scott in front of the Alberta Legislature building. PHOTO: Supplied

By Becky Benoit

It’s been a long time since MLA and Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education was an up-and-coming lawyer, eager to start his own law firm in Fort McMurray. Still, Scott remembers the frustrations and difficulties that come along with starting a new business in the city.

“When I was a small business owner myself, I certainly experienced challenges finding information,” Scott recalls. “I remember starting my own small business and having trouble figuring out where to get permits, even finding out what kind of regulations I needed to comply with. It sounds like a minor thing now.”

As Scott discovered for himself, the devil is frequently in the details for small business owners. Whether the fledgling business is a restaurant, a retail shop or a service provider, navigating the minutia of provincial regulations can be a nightmare.

“The questions I had when I was starting out, I think these are questions that are applicable across the board,” Scott says. “There are always challenges and people need to make sure they’re doing the right things, complying with the various requirements and getting the permits necessary.”

It’s a concern that small business owners across the province made clear to the provincial government last year during a round of consultations the government of Alberta conducted with the small business sector. “We wanted to know what we could do to make things better, how to help our small businesses perform even stronger,” Scott explains. “What Albertans told us was that they needed easier access to information.”

In response, the provincial government has created what it is calling a “one-stop shop for government services information,” in the form of a website, www.smallbusiness.alberta.ca, which will provide small business owners with a wealth of information about provincial government business programs, support and regulatory information.

“With three clicks, you can get the information you need,” Scott, who accompanied Premier Jim Prentice at the launch of the website, where Prentice demonstrated the website for the media. “I’m a big supporter of small business and I was glad to see that the website was so user-friendly.”

Along with the website, the government launched a new service for small businesses called The Business Link, which allows business owners with questions to talk to a live business advisor, eliminating the frustrating necessity of speaking with various ministries as business owners attempt to get their new endeavours off the ground.

“If somebody is still struggling to find out the information they need, the business advisor is an option available for people that allows them to speak to a live person and get feedback and further information,” Scott says.

Small businesses are a big deal in Alberta, Scott says. Small business makes up 95 per cent of all businesses in Alberta, and represent 35 per cent of the private sector jobs in the province. With 19 per cent growth in small businesses over the past decade, Alberta is well ahead of the national average of 12 per cent. “That’s a reflection of Alberta’s diverse economic opportunities and the high levels of investment coming into the province. We’re open for small business and we’re doing really well,” Scott says. “And Fort McMurray is a very entrepreneurial city – anyone who has lived here for a short time can sense that. This kind of service is ideal for a community like Fort McMurray, because it’s very practical for those starting their own small businesses.”

“This should really be a help [to small business owners] and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it,” Scott adds.

For more information on the provincial government’s small business initiative, visit the website at www.smallbusiness.alberta.ca, or contact The Business Link at 1-844-422-7705.