Let's do business
Deh Cho Business Development Centre opens

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Jan 15/99) - If you're considering your own small business in the Deh Cho, there is a new place you can go for funding and advice.

The Deh Cho Business Development Centre, located in the former Liidlii Kue First Nation trailer in Fort Simpson, officially opened its office Monday. The centre is designed to assist new and existing small businesses in Fort Liard, Jean Marie River, Wrigley, Trout Lake, Nahanni Butte and Fort Simpson.

"We'll increase the number of businesses in the region and the awareness of its benefits," said general manager Todd Noseworthy, adding that by mid-February he and business development officer Dan McStravick hope to have visited all the communities they will service.

Loans of up to $75,000 will be available for up to five years at a maximum of the prime rate plus four per cent. The BDC's loan pool, currently at $550,000, and its employees' salaries are supplied by the territorial government. Other than that, the centre is independent and will be run by volunteers on a board of directors. That board will consist of two representatives from Fort Simpson and Fort Liard along with one from each of the other communities. Noseworthy added that single representatives are still needed in Fort Simpson and Fort Liard, as are members of the business community, to sit on the investment review committee, which will accept or reject the business proposals.

Business propositions of all kinds will be welcomed but only those that will likely fly will be accepted, according to McStravick.

"If the idea is viable that's the main thing," he said, adding that proposals must also comply with local protocol, such as land-use policies.

In addition to providing help writing business plans, sorting cash receipts, keeping journals, filling out GST forms, etc., the BDC will provide Internet services and a small business library through its service centre. Access to other funding sources such as Aboriginal Development Canada, Metis/Dene Development Fund, Department of Resources and Economic Development, banks and others can potentially be arranged as well. Training sessions and workshops will be held on a demand basis too.

An "after-care" program, which will be in place to continue monitoring new ventures after they are up and running, is an important part of the BDC's service, according to Alison dePelham, chair of the board of directors.

"Our main interest is the development of the skills to run a business," said dePelham, acknowledging that starting a business can be an intimidating process. "And (clients) need to be involved where there's ongoing monitoring after they've received their funding to make sure all the other aspects are on track. You don't want to have an astounding percentage of start ups and then failures."

dePelham, who is the executive director for the Liidlii Kue First Nation, said the LKFN has made it a priority to assist its members in getting involved with small business enterprises to strengthen their independence.

"If we organize it correctly, then people who aren't used to being in business ventures will have one spot to go to where they can receive the funding," she said.