Indigenous business in the Atlantic region is growing fast

Entrepreneurship and business is becoming an increasingly popular option for a growing number of Indigenous peoples in Canada. According to TD Bank, Indigenous small business is growing at a rate 6 times faster than non-Indigenous people. So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that a recent report by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) has found that Indigenous business in the Atlantic region is growing fast.

The report, titled “Highlighting Successful Atlantic Indigenous Businesses”, has other interesting findings. As of 2016 there were 850 Indigenous businesses in the Atlantic – including individual and band-owned businesses - which generated $1.6 billion in revenues, employed 11,700 people (40% of them non-Indigenous), provided $296 million in wages, and created $338.8 million in gross profit. In New Brunswick, the size of Indigenous business is smaller, but experienced impressive growth between 2012 and 2016. The table below shows that, as of 2016, Indigenous businesses in the province generated $91.8 million in revenues, employed 1640 people, provided $55.7 million in wages, and created $28 million in gross profit.

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The report also provides insights on the challenges, opportunities, and experiences of Indigenous firms in the region. Indigenous firms believed that hard work and effort, good reputation, and quality work were the main reasons for their success. They also reported that the largest obstacles to growth were economic conditions, the high cost of doing business, and access to equity and capital. Indigenous firms indicated that they would benefit from support to access government funding, find and enter new markets, develop business strategies, and find new sources of financing.

So how can governments and Indigenous communities help stimulate more Indigenous business growth? For First Nation communities, it recommends the adoption of Acts like the First Nations Land Management Act and the First Nation Fiscal Management Act, which – among other things – can help communities improve the use of own-source revenue and access external financing. And for larger scale initiatives, the report recommends more government support for Indigenous business and community economic development, and unique lending programs for women.

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Tyler Foley is a Research Specialist at JEDI and will be a regular contributor to the JEDI blog. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Political Science at Carleton University. Prior to working with JEDI he spent several years working with International humanitarian and development organizations. He is from Oromocto, NB.