While some businesses across Alberta are seemingly more optimistic about the future, many entrepreneurs are still cautious broaching the topic of economic recovery.
“We’re seeing a little bit of an improvement,” said Robin Brown, real estate manager at CMW Management Inc. in St. Albert, which mainly deals with industrial properties in Edmonton. “Among our tenants we’re seeing a lot more optimism, many of them have seen an uptake in business.”
According to the latest Business Barometer index released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, small business confidence in Alberta inched slightly upwards by 0.9 points to an index of 54.8 in September, but is still lagging behind the national average index of 61.4.
Within his own business, Brown said they lost a major manufacturer as a tenant back in May. Not naming the company, he said the business decided to leave the province and move to the U.S. after uncertainty around the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
“That was a direct ripple down effect from the oil crash,” he said.
Normally a vacancy with CMW Management Inc. would be quickly filled, but Brown said it took nearly nine months to sign a deal with a new tenant.
Likewise, Cathy Goulet, president of Killick Leadership Group, has seen the same cautious optimism among businesses she has consulted with. The company uses leadership tools to help businesses and community groups grow.
“Businesses have had to pivot in the last couple of years and look at really the skill sets that they have,” she said.
Goulet explained that many entrepreneurs have had to shift their market or find creative ways to sell their products. While some have been successful, she said her clients are still wary of the economy.
“The business world that they operate in has shifted fairly fundamentally, it will probably never be as it was,” she said.
But one business leader in the community wonders if the latest barometer is an accurate reflection of the business community.
“People were starting to feel very confident with talk of the pipeline going through, but we’ve heard that there have been problems with that continuing and it’s sort of stalled right now,” said Jennifer McCurdy, president and CEO of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce.
In speaking with other businesses in the community, she said entrepreneurs wanting to invest have once again taken a step back.
Even with the slight increase, Alberta remains as the province with the lowest small business confidence across the country.
According to the report, employment in the province has also weakened. Currently, 18 per cent of employers are considering cutbacks, while nine per cent are looking to hire.
When it comes to how entrepreneurs feel about their businesses, 24 per cent felt their firms were in good shape, while 22 per cent said their firms were in bad shape.
The web-based survey was based on 605 responses from across Canada, collected by a random sample of CFIB members.