The 86 businesses interviewed were from five different sectors, including manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, retail/service, and other.
More than 50 percent were incorporated, and more than 50 percent were in the retail industry. Fifty-four of the 86 had less than 10 employees while 87 percent of the owners were involved in the day-to-day operations.
Almost all of the businesses were started in the community and 58 percent own their own facilities.
Overall, the business climate was rated as “good to excellent,” with 60 percent of the businesses indicating this directly and a number of others indirectly doing so. Expansion or relocation was considered by 23 businesses, and 37 percent reported increased dollar sales in the past three years while 48 percent expected it to be higher next year.
Business taxes were identified by 62 percent of participants are the greatest barrier to new business development or business expansion. It was the last-ranked factor when assessing the advantages of doing business in the Fort Frances.
Another barrier identified by 42 of businesses was the availability of skilled workers. It was further identified by 65 percent of the businesses as a factor in remaining competitive.
The most agreed upon factor by businesses was the quality of life in Fort Frances is “good to excellent.” Quality of life was rated among the top advantages to doing business here.
However, business owners were frustrated with the poor level of municipal taxes and transportation costs—both identified as community disadvantages as a place to do business.
Concerning Fort Frances as a community, those surveyed felt support from local residents was “good to excellent,” access to markets and customers was “good to excellent,” and having a smaller staff with personable and friendly people were top advantages for doing business here.
But the municipal government was rated as not supportive and poor on taxes. This showed up as a barrier to business growth and expansion, and in a list of disadvantages, rated amongst the highest disadvantages and as a factor for doing business, they were rated “fair” to “poor.”
Access to utilities and telecommunications capacity were rated among the highest advantage factors.
Marketing was recognized as an important activity and 69 percent of businesses were interested in market development locally. Thirty-four businesses were interested in collaboration and 24 percent in joint marketing.
Financing of development and expansion activities also was an issue for many businesses.
When asked about the advantages and disadvantages of doing business in Fort Frances, the top three advantages were: it’s close to the border, quality of life, and its a smaller community. The top three disadvantages were: municipal taxes, the fact it’s a one-industry town, and the distance from major centres.
The majority of sales were made within Canada though some said up to 10 percent were made to the U.S.
The most important factors businesses thought would help them remain co-operative were to improve customer service, energy costs, availability of telecommunication services, and local market development.
The majority of businesses said they identify their customers’ needs through informal contact and customer complaints.
Out of 86 businesses, 31 percent said they would have to increase their staff over the next three years.
The businesses also were asked what factors would affect the number of employees they have. Factors affecting an increase in employees included sales, new products, and management effectiveness. Factors affecting a decrease included outsourcing and subcontracting.
A total of 47 of the 64 businesses who responded to a financial question said they currently use the bank for their operations while the remaining 17 use either the credit union, trust company, or private source. As far as financial planning goes, the majority plan performance by the year and review by the month.
The number-one follow-up question was for information and assistance related to financial planning.