Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Program Gives Potential New Tourism Entrepreneurs a Leg Up

Starting a business is not easy and with the current trends in the economy and of the commercial banking industry that can make access to credit all the more difficult, its great to see new programs available to reward the spirit, confidence and determination of the entrepreneur.

The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) has announced the "New Entrepreneur Program" today. The program provides conditional contributions up to a maximum of 50% to a maximum of $125 000 for new start ups in Northern Ontario. The program is welcome news for the regional tourism industry, where current product gaps can potentially now be met. The commercial banking industry has been cool to the tourism industry in the region but this program provides applicants with significant financial support that can be used to leverage additional funds successfully.

I hear dozens of new business ideas weekly from people who call, email, stop me in the mall and even call my home. A lot of these ideas are great ones (and some need more thought) and many can be referenced back to the product gaps we've identified within the recently released "Premier Ranked Tourist Destination Framework". However, a major stumbling block has always come down to access to financial assistance to take these ideas to reality. It's what has been preventing the industry from expanding to meet the evolving needs of consumers.

There are a lot of educated and talented people in the city and region, many of which have found themselves caught up in the turmoil of the resourced based economic slowdown. Many have talents passions and ideas that can form the foundation of rewarding self employment opportunities. Programs that can make entry into the industry easier are welcome and while entrepreneurship is one of the most rewarding careers on earth, it is also one of the most stressful and challenging. I know as I've had several businesses over the past 20 years and know the highs and lows well. Prospective entrepreneurs can feel comfortable knowing there are numerous programs to help them through the process, well beyond the financial challenges.

Some of the program highlights include:
  • The program is open to residents of Northern Ontario who intend to start a new full time business in the region.

  • The program provides conditional contribution of up to 50% of eligible costs up to a limit of $125 000.

  • The business must create new full time employment opportunities.

  • The applicant must make a cash contribution of 10% of the conditional grant.

  • Total federal and Provincial financial support must not be greater than 75%

  • Eligible costs at the 50% threshold include capital and leasehold improvements.

  • Marketing costs up to 20% of the total project cost.

  • Cannot be utilized to expand an existing business similar to an existing one owned by the applicant or family members.
Nothing worth doing is never easy and hopefully, the uptake on this new programs sees bold new business owners take their new tourism experiences to market shortly. I, for one, can't wait to see what new tourism businesses succeed because of this.

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