Island businesses have reason to be confident
When Erin McGrath-Gaudet joined the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in 2007, Prince Edward Island had a budget deficit while other provinces were enjoying surpluses.
Now the Island has posted its third-straight surplus budget – and boasts impressive growth in population and GDP (gross domestic product) – while much of Canada is experiencing tougher economic times.
For anyone returning to Prince Edward Island, it might not look like the same place they left.
“All you can do is move forward,” said McGrath-Gaudet, the CFIB’s director for Prince Edward Island and intergovernmental affairs. The CFIB measures business confidence across Canada in its monthly Business Barometer.
Prince Edward Island since 2015 has consistently bettered the national average for small business optimism, often leading the country – as it does by a wide margin in the latest August barometer (74 compared to the national average of 62).
“There are lots of reasons to be optimistic,” she said. Island businesses have remained confident because:
- The lower-value Canadian dollar has helped draw U.S. visitors north in recent years while encouraging Islanders and Canadians to do more travel within their own borders. It has also made Prince Edward Island exports – especially agriculture and fisheries products – more attractive to international customers.
- Growth in Prince Edward Island’s population – which stands at an estimated 153,116 – also leads Canada. More people logically generate sales of more Island products and services.
While provincial governments have little control over many aspects of a province’s economy, McGrath-Gaudet said anything the Prince Edward Island government can do to reduce the cost of doing business helps small and independent Island businesses. The multi-year small-business tax cut in the 2018-19 budget was a positive step, she said.
Government’s latest budget also included a small business investment grant, which gave companies a 15 percent rebate on investments up to $25,000. This will result in a savings of up to $3,750 for Island companies looking to invest and grow.
Former Islanders returning home will find companies in need of employees. McGrath-Gaudet said Island businesses are challenged to find enough employees to replace those who are retiring. More working-age people are needed to fill the gap, she said.
However, those coming to Prince Edward Island to start their own company will find a receptive audience and a population that tends to support local businesses.
“For anyone with an entrepreneurial bent,” she said, “PEI is a place where there are plenty of people who will help you succeed.”