Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Agency consolidates small-business services

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THE province created a new special operating agency in last week's budget called Entrepreneurship Manitoba with the intention of streamlining its services for small-business startups.

The new agency rolls in the former special operating agency (SOA) called Companies Office as well as all of the province's small-business support services including:

  • The popular Business Start loan program;
  • General business counselling and business plan reviews;
  • Workshops and seminars offered through the provincial section of the Canada-Manitoba Business Service Centre;
  • The BizPal online portal;
  • Assistance to newly arrived immigrants through the Business Settlement Office of the provincial nominee program for business.

Peter Bjornson, minister of entrepreneurship, training and trade, said, "The rationale for doing this was an opportunity to explore new ways to make it easier for businesses in Manitoba to start up and operate with a one-stop shop essentially streamlining a lot of the services that have been available by putting them together under roof."

Special operating agencies are designed to operate on a cost-recovery basis. As part of corporate governance, they are required to provide detailed annual reports and submit independently audited financial statements.

The province's 2013-14 business plan for Entrepreneurship Manitoba calls for revenue of $10.724 million, with a surplus of close of $1 million.

In 2011-12, the former Companies Office SOA generated $7.914 million in revenue from fees for all sorts of business registrations. Those fees included $2.9 million from 58,000 annual returns.

Bjornson said there will be some new fees attached to some services but it will be the former Companies Office activities that will generate most of the revenue from the new SOA.

"Some of the services currently offered through the small-business development office are offered for free and those initial services will be continued to be offered for free," he said. "Services that will have fees associated will be on a value-added basis as companies see the importance of taking the next step with additional services that are offered."

They would include some enhanced workshops, seminars and consulting services.

There are no fees attached to the Business Start loan-guarantee program. That program allows new businesses to apply for a loan of up to $30,000 for working capital (negotiated with any number or banks and credit unions and guaranteed by the province). Business plans and a three-day workshop are required to qualify.

Since that program's inception in 1989, the province has guaranteed $14 million in loans to about 1,200 new businesses.

That program has recently been enhanced to include a journeyperson business start program.

Bjornson said the long-range plan is for all those services to be located in the same physical location.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2013 B3

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