Canadian Manufacturing

Growing pains: Ontario entrepreneurs struggling to scale up their businesses

Report lays outs roadmap to help province's fledgling firms grow


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TORONTO—Canadians now create new businesses at a greater pace than their American counterparts, but according to a new Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) report, they have trouble growing them. As a new generation of corporate giants have emerged south of the border, large Canadian businesses are few and far between.

“While Canadians may have greater opportunities to start a business, the next generation of large and globally competitive Canadian firms has not materialized,” the report says. “Among business leaders, there is a growing consensus that the nation faces a critical gap in its business growth strategy: businesses are not ‘scaling up’ into large, world-leading organizations.”

Based on a series of interviews with business owners and sector associations, as well as a survey of more than 350 Ontario business owners, the OCC report argues Ontario companies should place more emphasis on scaling up, but also says firms need the help of government and the wider business community to do so.

“Supporting the work of innovators and entrepreneurs across the country is integral to Canada’s future productivity and economic prosperity,” Sean Mullin, executive director of the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said. “Canada and Ontario stand to benefit from focusing efforts on supporting our most promising new firms and helping them succeed on a global stage.”

To help foster growth, the report lays out six barriers the OCC says stand in the way.

Topping the list of concerns is a lack of talent. With 63 per cent of businesses saying they face a talent shortage when looking to scale up, the report argues governments should focus on the issue by creating a “scale-up” visa, specially designed to speed up firms’ access to international managerial talent.

The report’s other recommendations include:

  • Gain a better understanding of where current gaps exist in the Canadian financing landscape
  • Realign public programs and incentives to focus supports on high-growth firms
  • Encourage greater international trade activity by linking more business support programs to trade
  • Improve access to public and private anchor customers by leveraging procurement to strategically invest in growing businesses
  • Enable accurate measurement and monitoring of the scale up challenge by ensuring collaboration between Statistics Canada and industry groups to collect and publicize relevant data

The report, which includes a detailed look at the recommendations, is available here.


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