Developing SMEs’ Capacity to Engage Human and Financial Capital
Business Retention & Expansion in Hants County, NS
Ryan MacNeil, B.B.A. (Hons.), M.A.E.S. 1
Simeon Roberts, B.Sc. (Hons.), M.A. 2
Calls for expanded pools of talent and capital in Atlantic Canada may be obscuring a capacity
deficit among small businesses. The “Business Retention & Expansion” (BR+E) pilot project in
Hants County, Nova Scotia has uncovered new empirical and anecdotal evidence of skill
deficiencies in local SMEs. These deficiencies manifest in difficulties securing debt and equity
financing and in attracting, retaining, or developing employees. Public policy must not only
increase the supply of human and financial capital, but also help businesses learn to engage
these resources. After closely examining 46 companies, in 2‐3 hour semi‐structured CEO
interviews, the Hants Regional Development Authority (Hants RDA) has intervened through
one‐on‐one business coaching. Some companies have developed new business planning and
management skills. Others have expanded their networks or taken advantage of previously
unknown support tools. This capacity building model has been effective in helping businesses
become investment‐ready employers‐of‐choice. The following paper summarizes BRE+E as a
development tool and approach to business and economic development and highlights the role
Hants RDA is playing in the Nova Scotia BR+E pilot project by documenting some of the early
results and conclusions drawn.
Development Officer / Manager of Business Retention & Expansion
Hants Regional Development Authority, Enterprise Centre of Hants County, Box 2313, 80 Water Street, Windsor,
NS B0N 2T0, Tel: 1‐877‐284‐2687, Fax: (902) 798‐3254, Email: email@example.com
Consultant / Business Retention & Expansion Account Executive
Hants Regional Development Authority, Enterprise Centre of Hants County, Box 2313, 80 Water Street, Windsor,
NS B0N 2T0, Tel: 1‐877‐284‐2687, Fax: (902) 798‐3254, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hants County, Nova Scotia (refer to Figure 1), home of the world’s highest tides and giant
pumpkins, borders the Halifax Regional Municipality ‐HRM and communities in South West
Nova, Annapolis Valley ‐ Wolfville and Kentville and Central Nova, including the Town of Truro.
Figure 1: Map of Nova Scotia in relation to the Maritime Provinces and Hants County, Nova Scotia.
With four municipalities, including East and West Hants and the Towns of Windsor and
Hantsport, it benefits from an economy that is increasingly diversified. Figure 2 provides a
summary of population statistics from the 2006 census.
Municipality Population 2006 % Population Land Area Population Density
Change 2001‐2006 (sq kms) (sq kms)
Hants 41,182 1.7 3,049.08 13.5
East Hants 21,387 2.7 1,787.64 12.0
West Hants 13,881 0.7 1,238.12 11.2
Town of 1,191 ‐0.9 2.13 559.7
Town of 3,709 ‐1.8 9.06 409.4
Nova Scotia 913,462 0.6 52,917.46 17.3
Figure 2: Population data for Hants County, Nova Scotia, Census of Canada, 2006
According to current studies and business indicators 3 , Hants County’s economy is continuing to
grow and diversify. As articulated in the Hants Advantage Initiative, the County’s leading
According to most recent statistics for the County, the service sector continues to dominate in terms of
employment (approximately 5,500 employees), with retail accounting for approximately 3,000 jobs.
Transportation, manufacturing and construction each count for approximately 2,000 jobs, while agriculture,
fisheries and forestry account for 1,000 jobs. Financing accounts for approximately 750 employees, while mining is
responsible for creating 283 jobs in the County.
competitive advantage is its strategic proximity to the Halifax Regional Municipality, combined
with lifestyle advantages the region affords. Proximity to major transportation networks and
major urban centers makes the County an attractive choice for both business and residential
development. New residential housing projects are developing in key urban areas of Hants
County, and small business start‐ups are in evidence throughout the region in retail, service
provision and small scale accommodation projects.
The industry sectors that have evolved in the County have diversified the region’s economic
base, and are demonstrated through companies like Scotian Homes, Elmsdale Lumber, Minas
Basin Pulp and Power, CKF Inc, Sepracor and BioMedica Diagnostics. Within the advanced
manufacturing sector, opportunities exist to champion the environmental leadership
demonstrated by key manufacturers in the region, and to support their efforts in skills
development, human resource management, and employee recruitment. Hants County’s close
proximity to HRM and to academic institutions such as Acadia University have a positive force
on the growth of a small life sciences sector, especially with respect to the commercialization of
Hants County also has strengths in agricultural production as demonstrated by Mason Apples,
Rainbow Farms, Cox Brothers Poultry and Avon Valley Greenhouses. Organic agricultural
producers in Hants County are also making a strong contribution to a 30 percent overall growth
in this sector throughout Nova Scotia. Agriculture contributes $55 million to the region’s
economy, and accounts for approximately 25 percent of the annual agricultural product
generated in the province. Hants County has a strong presence within the dairy, poultry and
soft fruit production facets of agriculture and is making new inroads in organic agricultural
production. An Agricultural Prospectus which is currently being finalized has also identified
opportunities for supporting new marketing and distribution networks for the sector.
Hants County has a diverse cultural and heritage community, and a broad‐based network of
non‐profit organizations involved in health, education, and recreation. As a tourism destination,
Hants County is a day‐trip destination for regional and Atlantic Canadian visitors alike. Through
the development of new destination areas strategies that seek to promote the Bay of Fundy,
Hants County will benefit from increased exposure as home of the “worlds largest recorded
tides”. Strengths in culture and heritage continue to be demonstrated by internationally
acclaimed organizations such as Mermaid Theatre, by festivals and events such as the annual
Pumpkin Regatta, and the many provincial heritage sites and community‐based attractions that
operate throughout the county.
Continued growth of community‐based tourism infrastructure along the Fundy Shore and in
surrounding regions is also attracting new private sector tourism investment. The ongoing
development of Burncoat Head Park and river rafting along the Shubenacadie River (refer to
Figure 3) has helped to attract private sector investment in new cottages facilities. Meanwhile,
the success of gallery operations like “Gallery 215” in Selma, and “The Place Near and Far”
Gallery in Kennetcook, have also had a positive spin‐off effect for local artists in the region.
Figure 3: Images of Burncoat Head and the Shubenacadie River
Like other counties in Nova Scotia, Hants County is feeling the effects of labour force shortages
caused by the migration of skilled and unskilled workers to Western Canada 4 . At the municipal
level, both East and West Hants continue to have challenges surrounding the imbalance in
growth of the commercial and industrial tax base compared to the residential tax base. While
municipalities are increasingly challenged to attract new business, infrastructure limitations on
the East side and a lack of business park availability on the West side pose a continued threat.
As the demand for infrastructure – particularly water and sewage – continues to grow in both
rural and urban areas, municipalities are also being challenged to address other infrastructure
needs, like the need for public transportation, and public recreational facilities.
Literacy concerns and the growing inequity felt by the least wealthy members of the
community also have a negative impact on the social health of Hants County. The rural‐urban
juxtaposition of services in the County also affects service provision – and it often hinders the
County’s ability to bring together a unified voice on key issues within communities.
Hants County is served by a variety of public sector agencies, which seek to develop
partnerships in community economic development, skills development, and business growth.
Through the partnerships that are being fostered within the Enterprise Centre in Windsor and
the new East Hants Resource Centre – the Hants Regional Development Authority is working
cooperatively with other service providers and economic development agencies for the
betterment of the County.
Additional insights concerning some of the issues Hants County is facing are outlined later in the paper when the
BR+E initiative is outlined.
The Hants Regional Development Authority
The Hants Regional Development Authority (Hants RDA) is an economic development agency
that is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors 5 and works with government, community
and business partners in the region. Its mission is to facilitate sustainable business and
community development activity compatible with the social, cultural and environmental needs
of Hants County. Since 1997, the Hants RDA has provided leadership in economic and
community development, having worked with business clients and community organizations to
find resources and provide planning support. It works closely with all levels of government to
identify new opportunities for business and to make Hants County a better place to live, work
Nova Scotia’s Regional Development Authorities were created in the early 1990’s under a
“community economic development” (CED) philosophy. Top‐down, exogenous approaches to
economic development had fallen into disrepute, and the Economic Council of Canada had
recently completed a comprehensive study on a new approach, “From the Bottom Up: The
Community Economic Development Approach.” 6
Community Economic Development has been defined many ways. However, a common
ideological thread is that community problems are best addressed “in a holistic and
participatory way.” 7 In Nova Scotia, CED draws ideological fuel from the Antigonish Movement.
Founded by Father Jimmy Tompkins and Father Moses Coady, the Antigonish Movement
employed principles of adult education and community ownership to foster self‐sufficiency,
entrepreneurship, and community resilience. The philosophy can be summarized in a simple
anecdote that has been attributed to Father Tompkins:
If the government gives a man a ten‐dollar‐dole he’ll need another as soon as it’s gone,
and he won’t have learned a damned thing except how to stretch out his hand. 8
Under the CED philosophy, regional development authorities strive to help their communities
develop the capacity to tackle their own challenges.
The goals and objectives of the Hants RDA are defined in an Annual Business Plan and
measurable outputs are defined within the Strategic Initiatives of the plan according to
strategic areas of economic development including:
The Hants RDA is the smallest RDA in Nova Scotia. A Board of Directors is comprised of representatives from the
four municipal units of Hants County and representatives from the business sector in the region. Members bring
together a wide range of expertise in business, tourism and community development. The Board develops the
strategic priorities (a new Strategic Plan is currently being developed) of the organization and receives community
input through its Board Advisory Panels.
Economic Council of Canada, 1990.
See the website of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, www.ccednet‐rcdec.ca.
Government of Nova Scotia (1999). “Father Jimmy's Heirs: A CED Album”. Accessible online at:
• Communicating the Benefits of Hants County to Regional, National and International
• Promoting Hants County as a location of Choice for Business Investment Opportunities
Supporting and Assisting Community and Business Groups to Become Established and
helping them to Access Resources for Projects that promote Community Economic
• Promoting, Improving and Increasing Tourism Development and Tourism Infrastructure
in Hants County
• Supporting Special CED Initiatives for the Betterment of Hants County
From a business point of view, the Hants RDA promotes the economic advantages of investing
in Hants County through its “Hants Advantage” marketing strategy and works in collaboration
with funding partners to support export development, business expansion, sector development
and new investment in the county. The Hants RDA works with business organizations across the
county to ensure they receive the support and training they need. The RDA is also participating
in an exciting new initiative – Business Retention and Expansion, which is aimed at building
strong relationships with business throughout the Hants County.
Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) as a Development Tool
Research and anecdotal evidence has shown that the majority of new jobs created come from
existing businesses. It has also been argued that up to eighty percent of almost any area’s job
growth is generated by existing companies rather than attraction of new industries (David
Birch, MIT, in his study “Jobs Created in America”).
Business retention and expansion (BR+E) has a very simple objective, to maintain and grow
existing business establishments and jobs in the market area. It is a community‐based economic
development strategy with a focus on taking care of, nurturing and supporting businesses
already existing in the community. It is complimentary to business attraction efforts as a strong
local business climate is often seen as a major attracting force.
BR+E works to improve the competitiveness of local businesses by identifying and addressing
their needs and concerns and building on business development opportunities. Originating
primarily in academia in the United States, the need for BR+E grew out of the 1970’s and 1980’s
recession and corresponding industrial restructuring especially in the rust belt of the North East
and Mid West, as the manufacturing base lost out to other areas in the US and to foreign
countries. Since then, BR+E has been widely implemented across North America and Western
Europe 9 and although there are many variants 10 some commonalities seem to exist.
An IEDC survey of economic development associations found that 67% of respondents had BR+E programs
whereas only 49% of respondents had attraction programs.
A structured business survey is typically utilized as a means of beginning a dialogue with local
businesses with the intent of identifying issues, concerns and potential opportunities and taking
action where appropriate. This is crucial to the sustained viability of communities since
businesses that stay competitive are more likely to remain and expand in the community. Also,
BR+E initiatives benefit from the support and close working relationship of service providers
and partners allowing for an effective resolution of issues that have been identified as part of
the BR+E process. This referral process is at the heart of BR+E and often necessitates a closer
coordination of efforts between multiple layers of government.
Although BR+E is understood by some as primarily a data collection exercise 11 it is much more
of “an ongoing cooperative effort between business, local government, agencies, other
organizations and people in the community with the purpose of identifying opportunities and
actions to assist local businesses in expansion, the retention and creation of jobs and the
diversification of the local economic base, as well as the implementation of defined actions to
improve the local business climate” (Texas Economic Development Council). BR+E therefore
acts as a mechanism by which local economic development agencies can improve
communication between the community and local businesses and build more effective long‐
term relationships with existing businesses. Through the BR+E process such agencies can begin
to demonstrate and provide community support for local business and address urgent business
concerns and issues. In the long term this will result in: an increase the competitiveness of local
businesses, job creation and new business development, the development and implementation
of strategic actions for local economic development, and most importantly a strong and viable
Business Retention and Expansion in Nova Scotia: BR+E Pilot Project
“Canada’s New Government is committed to growing and retaining businesses in Atlantic
Canada….we want companies in rural Nova Scotia to stay and grow so we’re taking action to
support them through this Business Retention and Expansion Pilot Program” said the
Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada
Opportunities Agency (ACOA) in a press release. The Nova Scotia Minister of Economic
Development also noted that “Local business communities continue to make a significant
contribution to the province’s business growth…the model is a proven way to identify
Examples of BR+E projects include: Oakland, California, which is focused on firms in target sectors; Omaha,
Nebraska, which makes use of business volunteers/ambassadors; Halifax, Nova Scotia, which has branded “Smart
Business”; Kalispell, Montana, where the Chamber of Commerce is leading the initiative; Dayton, Ohio, where a
code of conduct minimizes distrust; State of Michigan, which is highly targeted and has a network of account
managers; State of Pennsylvania, which has a very aggressive program with State issued guidelines; and Ontario,
Canada, which has a program focused on rural areas and includes 6 sector‐specific modules and community‐
It enables the community to maintain an up‐to‐date picture of the local economy by obtaining data on: the
competitive strengths and weaknesses of the local area as a business location, the relative strength of the local
economy (e.g., number of business expansions and new investments), and areas of interest and concern that can
be used to formulate public policy.
companies that have chosen to stay in Nova Scotia, acknowledge their value and provide the
knowledge and the skills they need to continue to grow their operations.”
The project is being coordinated by the Nova Scotia Association of RDAs (NSARDA), with over
$1 million in financial support from the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia. The funding
partners include: The Department of Economic Development, Nova Scotia Business Inc., The
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Department of Education. Over the course of a
two year period account executives will be meeting with over 900 businesses to identify issues
and concerns of local business communities.
Six Regional Development Authorities (RDAs) representing eight counties are participating in
the pilot project. They include:
• Colchester Regional Development Agency
• Hants Regional Development Authority
• Kings Community Economic Development Agency
• Lunenburg Queens Regional Development Agency
• Pictou Regional Development Commission
• South West Shore Development Authority
Under the leadership of a dedicated project manager at NSRADA, the participating RDAs are
utilizing common approaches, training and customer relationship management systems,
although some flexibility is being built into the process to allow each RDA to tailor its BR+E
approach to its own constituencies. For example, depending on the focus of the RDA and its
corresponding strategic and business plans there are differences in emphasis placed on the
types of companies approached during the BR+E process and the corresponding selection of
most valuable (MVCs) and most growable companies (MGCs).
The pilot project will run until the end of December 2007 after which it is expected to become
part of core RDA functions. A logic model and evaluation framework has also been developed
to guide the implementation and performance management of the project. In addition, as the
pilot continues, additional RDAs are likely to come on board to expand its coverage further
across Nova Scotia.
Business Retention and Expansion in Hants County
Companies in Hants County are selected for inclusion in the BR+E process in consultation with
the Hants RDA and municipal partners. Care is taken to ensure such companies align with the
strategic priorities of the RDA, the Hants Advantage Initiative (with a focus on companies in the
advanced manufacturing, life sciences and sustainable agriculture sectors) and are defined as
either “most valuable” or “most growable”. Companies are then introduced to BR+E through a
The process begins when the Hants RDA’s Account Executive requests a meeting with a
company’s President, CEO, Owner, or Manager. This initial meeting lasts 2‐3 hours, depending
on the engagement of the interviewee. It is important to note that this is an interview, not a
survey 12 . During introductions, it is explained that The Hants RDA has been selected to
champion the program in Hants County because of its long‐standing involvement in community
and business development and that people are working hard to make Hants County a better
place for business. The business’ input is then solicited: the conversation covers what they like
about the business climate in Hants County and how they think it could be improved. During
this dialogue, the BR+E process can also start to learn more about the business so that
programs and resources helpful to its bottom line can be outlined in more detail. The business’
contribution to the local economy is also recognized and the hope is that by participating in this
process the business will be rewarded by developing an effective relationship with the Hants
RDA, government agencies and other service providers in the community. Before entering into
the discussion, an “informed consent confidentiality agreement” is always signed.
The Hants BR+E Account Executive thoroughly researches each company before a formal
meeting. After some tombstone information is confirmed, the discussion focuses on challenges
and opportunities facing the company. In addition to the interview, the Account Executive
requests a short facility tour. The overall approach to BR+E is summarized in Figure 4 below.
Figure 4: Overview of the BR+E Process at the Hants RDA
The survey instrument and semi‐structured interview approach implemented in Hants County aims to dig
beneath the standard complaints to understand real challenges. It focuses on a discussion of issues such as: the
business climate, products and services, local workforce, immigration, sales and exporting, e‐commerce,
innovation and technology adoption, facility and equipment and succession planning. In many cases follow‐up
meetings are required to fully explore specific issues (e.g., with Human Resource Managers).
After each interview, the Account Executive records a summary of the discussion in a
confidential customer relationship management (CRM) database (Executive Pulse™). This
database tracks follow‐up with each company and allows the BR+E team to create reports on
community‐wide business trends. Once an action plan is developed to address the specific
needs of each company referrals are issued through the CRM to relevant service providers.
Referrals are then updated in the CRM and the Hants RDA BR+E Project Manager monitors
progress and reports accordingly. In some instances the BR+E Account Executive and Project
Manager need to spend considerable amounts of time and effort to seek an appropriate
solution and referral. This may involve a protracted course of maneuvering around various
levels of government before an eventual referral partner can be identified. In some cases a
Working Group comprised of individuals from the Hants RDA, Nova Scotia Business Inc., the
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and local municipalities meets to review specific action
plans and make further recommendations.
If an identified issue has no clear solution, it is referred to the Hants BR+E Local Action Team
(LAT) for further consideration. Here, The Hants RDA and its partners work to develop
immediate solutions and long‐term strategies that support business growth. Action Team
members 13 meet bi‐monthly to review progress on the project (refer to Figure 5 which outlines
a report card used to summarize project status), discuss common trends and learn more about
service offering from partner organizations. Most importantly they have the resources and
experience to effectively identify, review, and act on issues affecting local business in areas
such as: accessing new markets, recruiting skilled workers, addressing training needs,
addressing business location and relocation needs, accessing financing information and
assisting with local government. If a particular issue is of a regional nature, and the members of
the LAT are unable to arrive at an amenable solution, it is elevated to a provincial steering
committee for further consideration and action as appropriate.
Figure 5: Hants RDA BR+E Report Card
LAT members are drawn from a broad section of the community and include municipal leaders, Chambers of
Commerce and service providers at the provincial and federal level.
The following discussion summarizes some of the results from the pilot project. To date, 46
initial business meetings and 54 follow‐up meetings have been held which have generated 187
referrals (of which 124 or 66% have been deemed to be closed) and 381 proactive follow‐ups 14 .
Findings and Results
The majority of visited businesses reported a positive outlook for the future. Twenty‐seven of
the companies have identified current growth opportunities, while seven companies are
struggling with significant challenges (refer to Figure 6). Three companies were (or are) at risk
of closure, and four companies were (or are) at risk of relocating outside of Hants County.
Figure 6: Businesses in Growth and Decline
Although a wide range of individual business opportunities and challenges have been recorded,
some common trends have been identified. For example, opportunities in the “environmental
economy” were identified during 14 of the initial interviews. In response, the Hants RDA is
planning a networking forum on environmental opportunities in Hants County.
Four key challenge areas recurred during the 46 initial interviews (refer to Figure 7). This
discussion is focused primarily on the two most prevalent challenge areas: human and financial
capital. While the other two areas have factored into the overall BR+E project, they are outside
the context of this discussion.
Challenge Area Companies
Engaging Human Capital 18
Engaging Financial Capital 10
Navigating Government Regulations 7
Entering New Markets 6
Figure 7: Key Challenge Areas
Given the selection and types of companies involved in the pilot project and the nature of the BR+E interview
process, caution must be exercised when interpreting any results as they may not be statistically significant.
Engaging Human Capital
Through the course of the BR+E visits, 18 CEOs identified challenges engaging human capital.
These related primarily to “finding” talent and labour, although some companies also identified
retention challenges. Recruitment challenges were identified in nine companies, at two
organizational strata: entry labour and executive talent. Retention challenges were most acute
in trades, labour and customer service positions.
Some CEOs recounted prevailing wisdom about the allure of Alberta and the need for
“somebody” to do “something” to retain young people in Nova Scotia. Nineteen CEOs
acknowledged an interest in hiring new Canadians, but most were confused by provincial and
federal immigration programs. Other general commentary focused on the perceived failings of
the secondary school system, the Nova Scotia Community College’s (NSCC) perceived
abandonment of trades programs, and a perceived sense of entitlement among job seekers
(particularly those under the age of 30).
On this last point there were some differences of opinion that warrant further examination.
Some companies described the local labour force as loyal, skilled and hard‐working. A few even
attributed their success in Hants County primarily to the local labour force. Meanwhile, other
companies (8 in total) complained of difficulties finding skilled and willing workers. These
complaints focused on soft skills deficits: issues of tardiness, reliability, and poor customer
service aptitudes. Interestingly, the companies experiencing the most acute labour challenges
are those with little or no human resource function. These tended to be smaller companies. The
companies that shared praise for the local labour force tended to have a more formalized HR
function. These tended to be larger companies.
A closer examination of these contradictory opinions has revealed some management capacity
challenges among certain Hants County companies. A select group of companies has
demonstrated the capacity to engage a loyal, skilled and hard workering labour force. These
companies have strategies (and financial resources) to attract and develop employees. Another
group of companies does not have the same capacity. In fact, many of these companies are
externalizing their HR challenges by focusing on flaws in the supply‐side of the labour market.
To help businesses engage human capital, the Hants County BR+E project has put new tools in
the hands of its clients. Connections are being made to local career centres, NSCC’s Customized
Training program, and the Nova Scotia Department of Education’s “Workplace Education”
program. A few companies have been sent copies of a best practices guide 15 . But the most
exciting results are yet to come through partnered discussions at the Local Action Team. Some
project partners have agreed to co‐host human resource workshops for the business
community. Also, some partners have joined PeopleWorx in the development of an “Employer
The guide, “Best Practices in Employee Attraction, Recruitment and Retention in Manufacturing,” was published
by the Greater Halifax Partnership and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. It is available online at
of Choice” pilot initiative for Nova Scotia 16 . All of these interventions offer businesses the tools
and connections to adapt to changing labour market conditions.
Engaging Financial Capital
Financing challenges were identified during 10 CEO interviews. These 10 companies told the
Account Executive about business opportunities that would require new debt and/or equity
financing. Some concerns were raised regarding the limited supply of venture capital available
in Atlantic Canada. Some companies expressed concern over the complexity and narrowing of
government financing programs. Concerns were also raised over the risk‐adverse nature of
commercial banks in rural areas. As with the human capital challenge, there may be some truth
to these supply‐side concerns.
However, further examination of these 10 business cases has also revealed some demand‐side
deficits. In most cases the business people were uncertain as to how they should approach
prospective financiers. Although they could explain their particular growth opportunity, most of
these companies did not have a comprehensive business plan. Nor did most companies
understand the myriad of debt and equity options available to them.
In the simpliest cases, the BR+E Account Executive is simply a broker. Faced with a company
that needs financing, he may connect the CEO with existing programs and services to suit their
needs. In one case, a client with a solid business plan was referred directly to a partner
organization. This partner was unable to meet the client’s needs and later referred the client to
another organization 17 . Unfortunately, due to the complexity of business needs and the
complexity of financing options, a direct “referral” opportunity is yet to be found. Most clients
require more intensive support.
In response, the Hants RDA has been providing one‐on‐one business planning support for four
of these ten companies. RDA employees have met with the clients to discuss financing options,
introduce business planning principles, and provide feedback on draft plans. This business plan
coaching service has provided a safe environment in which businesses can prepare their
“pitches”. The goal is to produce investment‐ready businesses. Through this process,
applications for financing have been submitted to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency,
Nova Scotia Business Inc., the Community Business Development Centre Hants‐Kings, and the
Business Development Bank of Canada.
Summary of Findings and Results
Hants County’s business retention and expansion visits have uncovered companies with
significant challenges in engaging human and financial capital. The companies have raised
serious concerns over the supply‐side of these two markets. The concerns have been
PeopleWorx was formerly the Annapolis Valley Work Activity Society. See http://www.avwas.ca/.
The client has since secured a $40,000 loan for a technology upgrade that could result in the creation of 2‐5 jobs.
summarized and shared with various governmental and non‐governmental partners. However,
the focus of the project to‐date has been on addressing some of the demand‐side capacity
The Hants County BR+E project has uncovered significant economic growth potential among its
first 46 clients. More than a data collection exercise, the project is helping businesses develop
the capacity to grow and adapt.
The BR+E model offers a new customer‐service orientation for government. BR+E Account
Executives in all six pilot regions are developing strong relationships with the business
community. Government can use these relationships to better understand and address
business challenges and opportunities. BR+E can be a one‐stop‐shop that connects businesses
with the programs and services they need. But BR+E Account Executives cannot become sales
people for out‐dated government programs. A customer‐service orientation implies listening to
the customer. Policies and programs must be continuously improved to meet changing business
needs. Government services and regulations must be streamlined for easier navigation by
everyday business people.
BR+E can be much more than a brokerage service between government and business. In tune
with the CED philosophy, Hants County has been using BR+E as a tool to build business capacity.
This means delivering more than quick solutions to business challenges. Government must
strike a clear line between solving a challenge for business and creating an environment where
business can solve its own challenges. Such an environment includes support programs tailored
to business needs, as well as brokerage and capacity building services. As the founders of the
Antigonish Movement understood, community sustainability is about self‐reliance.