The business community just got an early Christmas present from the federal government, in the form of a $100 million funding program.
WINN is a five-year federal initiative offering repayable funding for small- and medium-sized businesses in Western Canada, with the goal of moving new and innovative technologies from the later stages of research and development to the marketplace.
The program, which is being run through Western Economic Diversification, is billed as supporting entrepreneurs in “bringing their ideas from the work bench and into the marketplace.”
“The government is clearly hoping to kickstart some commercialization of products by bringing some additional financing options to the table,” said Colleen Pennington, Penticton’s Economic Development Officer.
“Financing growth is tricky in these days anywhere. Having more options that give businesses a chance to borrow capital at a favourable rate and help them build their business and ultimately jobs, that’s really important.”
Under WINN, eligible western Canadian businesses can apply for funding to support a wide range of commercialization activities.
But there is a limited time frame for businesses to get their application in, if they hope to be included in the first round of funding. The intake period, which began on Nov. 9, ends at midnight on Dec. 8.
“Hopefully a bunch of businesses have projects that are ready to go. They really only have a month to turn around and submit their business plans,” said Pennington. This is the time, she continued, for businesses that have a market opportunity they want to get to, but weren’t sure how to finance, to throw their hat in the ring “and see if we can capture a lot of that money for the Penticton area.”
“That’s what I am hoping for,” said Pennington. The general business climate in Penticton, she said, is similar to a lot of communities, in terms of those serving the consumer market. But the community is seeing business growth in certain sectors, like custom manufacturing.
“A lot of it comes down to the markets our businesses are competing in and the entrepreneurship of our business owners,” she said. You have to start innovating and addressing the digital world. And we have some great entrepreneurs that are doing that. I think we are going to have lots of areas of growth as we continue to attract people like that.”
The new federal funding program should help business owners put their innovations and plans for growth into action, she explained.
While there are standard funding sources available through bank loans and some other alternatives through groups like Community Futures, Pennington said a program like WINN, that can put capital at an affordable rate in front of small and medium size businesses is critical.
More information about the WINN program is available online at http://www.wd-deo.gc.ca/eng/14857.asp.