October 15, 2004 - by Aliyah Esmail, Staff Reporter, Bancroft This Week

On Oct. 22, Ontario will celebrate the Community Futures Development Corporation of North and Central Hastings and South Algonquin, and their contribution to the community.
Community Futures is an organization that offers help to communities in the area by helping them expand their economies.  It is a community-based, non-profit organization, and is run by a board of local volunteers and staffed by professionals, who encourage entrepreneurship and the capitalist pursuit of opportunity.
It helps Bancroft, Tweed, Marmora, Madoc, Faraday, Limerick, Wollaston, as well as others in the vicinity.
The job of Community Futures is to help businesses open and grow in the area.  The organization invests in small business, gives workshops, and teaches people how to run a business from start to finish.
They start with the business plan, for which there are many seminars - from applying for a loan, to how to approach a bank.  Everything is different in a northern community and the fact that businesses are harder to keep open, points to the need for agencies like Community Futures.
“It is our purpose to help dreams come true,” said Bob Cloes, the General Manager of Community Futures.
This year’s theme is “Shaping the future of our community.”  Small business has a very important role to play in communities like this one.
Ontario has more than 322,000 small businesses with 50 employees or less.  These businesses account for nearly 95 percent of all businesses in Ontario.  Statistics Canada’s 2001 Census said that the small businesses are responsible for almost half of the new jobs in Ontario.
“We act as a catalyst in the community,” said Cloes.
It is Community Futures' job to help bring together different parties in the community and from the outside.  When looking for funding, the Canadian government is willing to listen, but only if all the requirements are met.  Moreover, Community Futures is willing to make sure that it is done.
The organization gets its core funding from Industry Canada, and the rest from grants from large business and through other organizations.
The organization also acts as a Loan Officer to small businesses not able to get assistance from a bank.
“We tell our clients to go to a bank first.  We’ll help then if they get rejected, or in conjunction with a bank if they need it,” said Jackalin O’Brien, the Investment Manager.
The organization can loan from $1,000 to $125,000, depending on the costs and plans of the business.  “We try to assist when banks can’t,” said O’Brien.
It also helps existing businesses expand or keep afloat.  There are more than 130 clients taking services from Community Futures, and they take up about $5.6 million in actual loans.  However, to be able to get a loan, the legwork must be done.
Starting a business can be a tedious process that demands research on the market, area, locations, zoning and more.
“Starting a business is not something you can just do in a week,” O’Brien said.
The Community Futures has a checklist of all the things that need to be considered and looked at, as well as an up-to-date library, and personal assistance with all the steps in the process.
There are 61 Community Futures Development Corporations in Ontario, and each employs local staff.  It is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, made up of residents of the area.
Community Futures Day will fall on Small Business Week, which runs from Oct. 17 to 23.