By David F. Rooney
Revelstoke’s Community Futures Development Corporation doesn’t often blow its own horn — but sometimes it should, especially now that it has 20 million reasons to celebrate.
Twenty million reasons?
Absolutely! That’s the amount of money it has loaned out to local entrepreneurs and local businesses since its creation 24 years ago.
“We have been involved in just about every avenue of business in Revelstoke since 1988,” CFDC General Manager Darryl Willoughby said in an interview on Wednesday.
And where has that $20 million gone? Why, to support 640 different business proposals put to CFDC lenders over the years.
“The largest was for $250,000; the smallest was $200 for snow shovels,” he said.
“This was to a guy who was kind of down on his luck during a winter in which there was a huge dump of snow. We lent him the money and he started a little snow-clearing business.”
Along the way, those 640 success have created about 1,700 local jobs, says CFDC Business Analyst Kevin Dorrius.
That’s a pretty good track record and places Revelstoke’s CFDC among the top three CFDC agencies in BC.
He said in an interview that the agency’s success story began back in the 1980s when the federal government established a mechanism through Western Economic Diversification for funding entrepreneurs who wanted to start small businesses.
You’d think traditional banks would be willing to do that. But in general they’re not. They are very risk-averse — one reason, perhaps, why Canadian banks are so successful — but that makes it difficult for many people to start-up funds for their small business ideas.
Most CFDCs covered large regions (Cranbrook’s CFDC, for instance covers not just that city but all the communities up to an including Golden) but Doug Weir, who was the City’s community economic development director at the time, argued long and hard for Revelstoke to have its own stand-alone CFDC.
Western Economic Diversification saw the wisdom in that and Revelstoke’s fledgling agency received the same $1.5 million in start up funds that all of the other CFDCs received. That money was invested wisely and the portfolio is now worth $6.5 million. The interest from that pays for the loans made each year at a rate of prime plus 2% to 3.5%.
The CFDC, of course, receives a lot of proposals that don’t see the light of day.
“I probably talk to 120 or 130 people every year,” Dorrius said. “Maybe a quarter or a third of them make it past the talking stage. The rest? Part of my job is to tell them what they need to hear — not necessarily what they want to hear.”
He said successful project proponents have more than just good ideas.
“We’re supposed to put funds in the hands of entrepreneurs so we’re supposed to take risks,” Dorrius said.
But the risks have to be smart ones and the people CFDC lends to all “have solid business plans.”
They won’t lend to people who lack that or who are carrying large debt loads. Nor will they lend to questionable proposals like, say, a proposal to start a peeler bar.
If you have an idea for a business and you think the Revelstoke CFDC might be able to help you out contact Kevin Dorrius at 250-837-5345 or click here to send him an e-mail.