The Power of Innovation: Driving Small Business Growth. (Small Business and the Banks)

Canadian Speeches, January 2002 | Go to article overview

The Power of Innovation: Driving Small Business Growth. (Small Business and the Banks)


President and CEO, Business Development Bank of Canada.

Innovation is for any business -- big or small -- that hopes to survive. For small business, Innovation doesn't mean the development of new technologies, but the ability to recognize opportunities to adopt them and put them to work. Small business Innovation means growth, productivity Improvement, and profitability for a sector that is the principal driver of the Canadian economy and employment growth. Speech to the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Laval, Laval, Quebec, October 24, 2001.

This week, we are marking Small Business Week, an event the Business Development Bank of Canada -- the BDC -- has organized for the last 22 years.

The BDC is proud to be part of this full week of activities during which we celebrate small business successes, share insights on the business strategies of the day, and look to the future.

Given the tragic events of September 11 and their repercussions around the world, one might wonder if we really have anything to celebrate this year.

We would be deluding ourselves if we were to ignore the significant impact of those events on our clients, their businesses, and indeed the global economy. We are currently in a period where uncertainty is affecting both consumer and entrepreneur confidence, which tempers the level of economic activity.

At the Bank, we responded quickly, as of September 22, by offering all our qualified customers the option of postponing principal payments for a period of four months starting October 1, 2001. As I pointed out in a letter to customers, we are confident the disruption is temporary, as the fundamentals of our economy remain strong. The four-month postponement is expected to give entrepreneurs who need it a reasonable period in which to get back on their feet and plan for the future.

However, the future still looks promising. Canada is better positioned than at any other point in its history to face this difficult period. The remarkable progress made over the last 10 years in strengthening our public finances, in replacing chronic deficits with budget surpluses and in the aggressive, fitting reaction of governments and the Bank of Canada, as demonstrated, for example, by the Bank of Canada's lowering of its rate by .75 just yesterday, will stand us in good stead. Income tax cuts and the lowest interest rates in 40 years will help restore confidence and further underpin growth in domestic demand throughout 2002. After seven years of uninterrupted expansion, our Canadian companies -- especially small businesses--are showing stronger balance sheets.

Our financial institutions are healthy, and I urge them to be flexible with their clients so they remain real partners with our small businesses despite economic ups and downs.

At the BDC, we have deliberately increased our general provisions from 5% to 7% of our portfolio over the last three years. We are better capitalized than ever and are poised to be flexible as we support our customers over the next few months.

We must not allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the terrorist attacks and the events that have ensued. Instead, we need to be confident about our economic future.

Market globalization and mushrooming competition remain very real business issues affecting all sectors of the economy. To be successful in this environment, companies must continue to focus on productivity and growth, which is precisely why the theme of this year's Small Business Week is "The Power of Innovation: Driving Small Business Growth." And there is no better place to talk about the burgeoning accomplishments of small business than here in Laval, where more than 240 new businesses were created in the last 10 years, for the most part by young entrepreneurs, including a growing number of women, in innovative sectors like biotechnology and information technology.

Innovation is everyone's business, not just that of large companies like Celestica, BCE or Biochem Pharma/Shire. …

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