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Qualified staff wanted

A severe shortage of qualified workers is impeding the growth and success of small- and medium-sized businesses in Manitoba, according to a new report.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said Tuesday a recent survey of small and medium-sized businesses in Western Canada showed 80 per cent of the Manitoba respondents have had difficulty finding qualified workers in the past three years.

As a result of failing to find enough qualified people, more than half (51 per cent) of Manitoba respondents said they've had to pass up new business opportunities, 54 per cent said productivity has suffered and 48 per cent said customer service has deteriorated.

Sixty-seven per cent of the business owners also said they're working longer hours, 60 per cent said their company's labour costs have risen, 42 per cent said they're spending more on training and 27 per cent said they've delayed or cancelled expansion plans.

"There is no silver-bullet solution to solving this significant and growing challenge," said CFIB Manitoba director Janine Carmichael. "Policy-makers have begun to respond, but much more needs to be done to help employers find the qualified people they need to build their business and grow our economy."

The 10 most sought-after types of workers are: salespeople, construction workers, auto mechanics, service staff, general labourers, truck drivers, service technicians, welders, office staff and general managers.


Bison acquires Searcy

WINNIPEG-based Bison Transport, one of the largest trucking companies in Canada, has acquired Searcy Trucking and its distribution division, Universal Reload.

Also based in Winnipeg, Searcy Trucking specializes in flat-deck transportation services and has 72 trucks, 90 trailers and about 100 employees.

Universal Reload manages five hectares of outside storage, 24,000 square feet of indoor storage and specializes in open-deck freight-handling logistics.

Searcy Trucking and Universal Reload will continue to operate as a stand-alone company.

Norm Blagden, Bisons' director of business development, will be vice-president of Searcy Trucking, and Gerry Searcy will continue as president and CEO.


Retail sales up

RETAIL sales in Manitoba increased at the second-fastest pace in the country in February, new Statistics Canada figures show.

The agency said the province's retailers rang up $1.44 billion worth of sales during the month, which was a gain of 2.0 per cent from January's total of $1.41 billion.

The only province to post a bigger monthly increase was Alberta, at 2.2 per cent.

Manitoba also had the fourth-largest year-over-year increase, with sales up 1.6 per cent from February 2012's total of $1.42 billion.

The February rebound came after two consecutive months of weakening sales in Manitoba. Sales fell by 1.3 per cent to $1.42 billion in December, and by 0.4 per cent to $1.41 billion in January.

Canada saw its retail sales climb by 0.8 per cent to $39.5 billion in February.


Apple giving out slices

NEW YORK -- Apple is opening the doors to its bank vault, saying it will distribute $100 billion in cash to its shareholders over two years. At the same time, the company said it expects sales for the current quarter to fall from the year before, which would be the first decline in many years.

Apple Inc. on Tuesday said it will buy back $60 billion in shares -- the largest buyback authorization in history. It is also raising its dividend by 15 per cent.

Investors have been clamouring for Apple to give them access to its cash hoard, which ended March at an unprecedented $145 billion. Apple's tight grip on its cash has been blamed for the steep decline in its stock price over the winter.

-- staff / wire services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 24, 2013 B6

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