May 16, 2011

The longevity of the Community Futures Program was celebrated at the Annual Conference of the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations, held this week in Niagara Falls.  Members of the organization, representing 61 Community Futures Development Corporations located in towns and rural areas across the province, celebrated 25 years of the program.

Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) offer free business counselling and provide loans to entrepreneurs, in addition to working on community economic development projects.  CFDCs in Southern Ontario are funded by FedDev Ontario, while those in Northern Ontario are funded by Industry Canada through FedNor.  They operate as not-for-profit corporations.  Decisions are made locally by volunteer Boards of Directors working with managers and staff in each office.  Volunteer directors and staff alike will be attending the conference May 16 to 18.

The Community Futures Program was established 25 years ago by the federal government to support economic development in rural and northern communities, OACFDC Executive Director Diana Jedig explains, “This program is unique, in that while the government funds it, all decisions are made locally by a community-minded volunteer board of directors.”

There are 23 CFDCs that have been serving their communities for the past 25 years:

Kirkland & District Community Development Corporation, Kirkland Lake

Rainy River Future Development Corporation, Fort Frances

Orillia Area Community Development Corporation, Orillia

Centre For Business And Economic Development, Collingwood

Venture Niagara, Thorold

Peterborough Community Futures Development Corporation, Peterborough

Lake Of The Woods Business Incentive Corporation(LOWBIC), Kenora

South Lake Community Futures Development Corporation, Keswick

South Niagara Community Futures Development Corporation, Port Colborne

Northumberland Business Assistance Development Corporation, Cobourg

Kawartha Lakes Community Futures Development Corporation, Lindsay

East Algoma Community Futures Development Corporation, Blind River

Community Futures Development Corporation of  Chatham-Kent, Blenheim

North Simcoe Community Futures Development Corporation, Midland

Elgin Business Resource Centre,  St. Thomas

Economic Partners Sudbury East/ Nipissing West Inc., Sturgeon Falls

LAMBAC CFDC (LaCloche Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation), Gore Bay

Haliburton County Development Corporation, Haliburton

Bruce Community Futures Development Corporation, Kincardine

Renfrew County Community Futures Development Corporation, Pembroke

Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie, Sault Ste. Marie

Prescott-Russell Community Development Corporation, Hawkesbury

Saugeen Economic Development Corporation, Neustadt

 In addition, the OACFDC honoured a Silver Anniversary Entrepreneur.  The organization asked their members to nominate businesses that were started with assistance from a CFDC 25 years, and were still going strong.

 “We’re very excited about our Silver Anniversary Entrepreneur.  It’s an amazing business that has weathered 25 years very well!” says OACFDC President Judy Nafziger.  The business, Meeker Aquaculture of Evansville on Manitoulin Island has had steady growth over 25 years.

Owner Mike Meeker started his fish farm with a loan of $3,500 from LAMBAC CFDC (LaCloche Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation) 25 years ago.  He now operates a multi-million dollar fish business, selling fresh fish across Canada, and turning his fish waste into fertilizer sales.

Mary Nelder, the General Manager of LAMBAC, says that he was the first client to take advantage of their investment portfolio.  “We literally handed him cheque number one,” Ms. Nelder laughs.

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