BY CHRIS PALMER
As the province’s new minister of Economic Development and Tourism, I read with great interest Green Party Deputy Leader Lynne Lund’s January 13 opinion piece, “Chance to breathe new life into portfolios.”
In it she describes the importance of support for small business in our province, and of the need for new incubator space for new entrepreneurs.
Small business is the backbone of Prince Edward Island’s economy. The number of innovative, hard-working entrepreneurs we have in this province – in relation to places much larger – is one of the things that makes us a small but mighty Island.
Innovation P.E.I. has supports available for virtually any kind of business. In 2016-17 Innovation P.E.I. supported 997 projects to the tune of $38 million. Seventy per cent of that support went to projects in rural parts of the province.
In addition, Finance P.E.I. has over $330 million in financing out to over 1,000 businesses across the Island. All is invested in small and medium-sized companies, with 33 per cent supporting primary producers in agriculture, aquaculture and the fishery. In total better than 60 percent of all financing is invested in rural areas.
I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Lund about the need for incubator space for new entrepreneurs, but we do far more than she describes. The province supports incubator spaces in Montague, Summerside, and two in Charlottetown. The Start Up Zone in Charlottetown and our three Launch Pad locations not only provide space for new entrepreneurs; they give advice and mentorship, helping entrepreneurs navigate the process and sometimes access seed capital.
We are always looking for new ways to support small business growth, and will continue to listen to our business community to understand how we can help – and when we should get out of the way.
There’s one more point I should mention. While operating my first business I was given a great piece of advice: if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measurement used by all provinces in Canada and countries around the world. We use GDP as an indicator of the health of our economy and to ensure it’s headed in the right direction. In 2016 our GDP grew by 2.3 per cent which was third among provinces and ahead of the national average of 1.4 per cent.
Exports are another important measure. In 2016 our province exported $1.32 billion in goods internationally. We expect to exceed that total in 2017. Exporting companies support thousands of jobs and provide tremendous benefit to our economy.
There are other measurements we use, like new job growth, population growth, and median age. Our province added 2,800 new jobs in 2017. Our population grew faster than any in Canada in 2017. And for the first time in generations, our population trended younger on PEI last year as we were one of three provinces to see our median age decrease.
From my private-sector experience I can also assure you that this province has a dedicated, hard-working, and creative workforce. We see this in companies like Standard Aero (formally Vector Aerospace), Aspin Kemp, DME, Sekisui Diagnostics and many, many others.
These companies help grow the economy – and our tax base – so we can deliver basic services like health care, education, and support for seniors. It also allows us to modernize our infrastructure and further invest in businesses that grow the economy and provide good jobs for Islanders.
As minister I intend to continue to support local entrepreneurs and to find new and improved ways to help companies succeed – because when this happens, all Islanders benefit.
- Chris Palmer is P.E.I.’s minister of economic development and tourism