Reflections on our Inaugural Conference

On April 24th, 2012, OIN held its inaugural conference on immigrants and business succession. This innovative session brought together stakeholders from all over Southwestern Ontario and allowed them the opportunity to review our strategic recommendations, see how they could work in their communities and gave them the opportunity to commit to helping our project move ahead.

You can view our summary report at http://oinweb.ca/images/oin_call_to_action.pdf.

Rodolfo Martinez
Project Manager, Ontario Immigrant Network

OIN Whitepaper: Immigrants and Business Succession

*this blog was written as an introduction to our most recent whitepaper, which is available here*

It has been awhile since I’ve blogged, and I’d like to touch on the core of our work to date: entrepreneurship, immigrants and the importance of SMEs to our local economies.

For a little over a year, and with the support of MTCU, as well as our partners, we have been working to develop strategies to attract and retain immigrants to smaller communities. From our research, we found a very narrow focus: solving business succession issues in second-tier and rural areas by connecting disenchanted immigrants to entrepreneurship.

Imagine two very different people that want the same thing: fulfilling, well paying careers. Let’s imagine that the first is an immigrant who came to Canada with an education and valuable work experience, and chooses to live in Toronto. They begin their job search with a strong base of experience and education, only to find that both held little weight here. Needing some means to survive, they likely end up in a low skill or survival job while their human capital atrophies. This was not the Canada that was promised to them.

Now imagine an ageing entrepreneur who has put a good part of themselves into building a successful business. They now find that their children may be unwilling or unable to take over the business, or they may have no clear successor. How can they find a way to be compensated for their life’s work?

By connecting these two individuals together, we can give the immigrant a meaningful opportunity, higher quality of life and increase their lifetime earning potential. For the ageing entrepreneur, we can give them the reward that they deserve for running a successful business. But we are forgetting a very important key player: the community.

The community as a whole will no longer need to worry about widespread business closure. Jobs will be preserved, and as a new, energetic entrepreneur comes in, businesses will likely be expanded to employ more people. As time goes on, entirely new businesses may be created. The municipality also knows that moving forward, it will have a lrger, younger base of taxpayers and community leaders. This is truly a win/win situation.

Our whitepaper describes this in further detail, and as always we welcome your feedback via twitter. If you aren’t following us yet, be sure to add @rodolfo_oin and let us know your thoughts.

Thank you.

Rodolfo Martinez,
Project Manager, Ontario Immigrant Network

Immigrant Entrepreneurship – A Boost for Our Communities

Last year, over 250,000 newcomers choose Canada as their new home. Often these newcomers flock to centres such as Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. While these cities certainly offer diverse communities and a multitude of newcomer services, they may also be contributing to a substandard experience.

A recent study showed that Toronto was the most miserable city in Canada, and this was due in large part to the high proportion of immigrants. This is not to say that immigrants make others and themselves miserable, but rather that there is a mismatch between immigrant expectations and outcomes, particularly in larger centres. Each year, we actively seek the best and brightest from developing nations, and only a small percentage are able to find opportunities that match their skill sets.

Referred to sometimes as “Taxi Driver Syndrome” many foreign trained professionals end up in low-skilled jobs. As newcomers adjust to their new lives in large cities, they often become entrenched in ethnic enclaves and from there, the integration process is seriously hampered. Credential recognition is an ongoing issue, and few fields allow for an easy transition into a career that is aligned with a newcomer’s past experience. We see this across all regulated professions, and across all ethnicities. However, there is one unregulated profession that does not care about your ethnicity or where you obtained your credentials: entrepreneurship.

Many immigrants come to Canada seeking a better life, and often they turn to entrepreneurship to do so. Why? Because if they have the business accumen, courage and the right idea, they need not be limited in what they can achieve.

Newcomers are naturally risk takers, having given up so much to come to a new country. Poverty, persecution and even death are just some of the risks faced by many immigrants. The risk of business failure is likely miniscule in comparison, and with the motivation to create a new life, immigrants are clearly an excellent source of new entrepreneurs.

Check back later this month for more on why immigrant entrepreneurship is just the boost that our communities need.

Election post for our supporters

In support of the initiative proposed by SWEA, Ontario Immigrant Network is calling on the province to create an economic development fund specifically for Southwestern Ontario.

During the recent Ministers’ Forum at the AMO conference, finance minister Dwight Duncan gave his unqualified support to SWEA’s proposal.

Since then, the SWEA proposal has been adopted in the Ontario Liberal election platform. It is critical that this idea becomes a key election issue in Southwestern Ontario and that the emerging government implements it during the first budget.

Our municipal governments, with limited resources and capacity, have demonstrated considerable success in transforming the Southwestern Ontario economy by collaborating on innovative solutions at the grassroots level. Ontario Immigrant Network believes that these on the ground partnerships are the key to economic recovery, diversity and growth in our region. Only multi-year support for a development fund can insure the creation and success of partnerships between all sectors of the economy in rural Southwestern Ontario.

We believe that our supporters, as well as those that support economic prosperity in Southwestern Ontario, need to make this issue important and their voices heard.

For more information on these issues, please visit:

SWEA

And be sure to follow @swea_ca on twitter if you aren’t already!

See you at the polls!

Rodolfo Martinez

Executive Director, Ontario Immigrant Network