Take advantage of federal funding that is available to you.
That’s the message delivered today to a gathering of regional manufacturers and business owners by Gary Goodyear, FedDev Ontario minister of state. He spoke to more than 100 people from Chatham-Kent, Sarnia-Lambton and Windsor-Essex this morning at the Invest for Tomorrow Funding Innovation Forum held at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre.
Goodyear highlighted more than $700 million available through FedDev Ontario.
Of that money, $200 million is available over the next five years through the Advanced Manufacturing Fund in Ontario, which was announced in December.
Goodyear said a further $530 million is available through the Southern Ontario Prosperity Initiatives.
Goodyear told the gathering that FedDev is modifying existing programs and launching new ones to “try to help your communities attract new business and drivers of innovation.”
Much of the funding is geared towards businesses developing partnerships with other businesses or even with post-secondary institutions. The collaborative efforts are designed to build stronger businesses that are ready to take on a bigger marketplace.
Goodyear said companies must realize that their competition is no longer just down the street or in a neighbouring city.
“Competition is just a mouse click away. We have to be global in our thinking,” he said. “We’re in a technology revolution. Companies must recognize that they are in a position where they need to continually reinvest in themselves. Companies that are not investing in new equipment, technology and training for employees are the ones that won’t survive.”
Canada now has a trade agreement with the European Union. Goodyear said that gives Canadian businesses access to half a billion potential new customers and $17 trillion in new economic activity.
Goodyear used Wallaceburg-based Lambton Conveyor as an example of a company that is positioned for the future, one that benefitted from FedDev funding.
“Lambton Conveyor has grown from a local/regional manufacturer to a global company,” he said. “It now sells into 25 countries around the world.”
Goodyear said having the opportunity to speak directly to manufacturers is essential, and appreciated the chance to speak at the forum.
“It’s vitally important that we can get the message out on what funding is available to the manufacturers,” he said.
The minister added that roundtable discussions with municipal officials, manufacturers and even out-of-work individuals are also very helpful.
“We can hear what is needed and tweak the programs to meet those needs,” he said.
Goodyear said many of the problems brought up at the roundtable meetings aren’t federal issues, however.
“There are provincial issues impeding growth,” Goodyear said, citing the rising cost of electricity as one problem regularly mentioned.
Applying for the federal funding can potentially scare off some people who could make good use of the money, said Michael Burton, Chatham-Kent’s director of economic development. But he said his staff can help make the application process easier.
“Economic development, for existing businesses, can help make this a simple process,” he said. “It can be daunting for a business owner – they’re trying to run a company and apply for funding.”
Burton said his staff is familiar with the paperwork and can help business owners cross the correct T and dot the right I.