Relationships key to HCDC’s success
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | October 20, 2016
Digital Reno Agency grew from one to four employees in its first year with a boost from the Haliburton County Development Corporation (HCDC).
“We were able to hire way more people than we thought we were going to hire,” said Jim Love, one of three shareholders in the company.
“I think it cut like one or two years off our development time in terms of developing the number of full-time jobs in Haliburton, which is pretty big.”
The digital media production company was founded in September 2015. Its primary location is in HCDC’s business incubator (the former space of the library).
It received a grant through the Eastern Ontario Development Program (EODP), one of several federally-funded programs. But it had to match the amount to get it.
Love doesn’t believe he would have been able to convince the other two shareholders (one of whom is his wife) to locate the business in Haliburton had it not been for HCDC.
“We would have put the jobs in Toronto,” he said.
In addition, the company was also able to bring high-speed Internet to the incubator, which benefits other tenants in the building.
Love has found it very rewarding to work with HCDC’s staff.
“They’re marvelous,” he said, calling them a sharp, tough bunch that want you to succeed.
This is just one of the many local success stories in Haliburton County.
In the past 30 years, HCDC has issued more than $72 million in loans, making it one of the most active organizations of its kind in the province.
In the past year, 90 local businesses received about $4.5 million in loans. Sixty-five new jobs were created and 415 people remained employed.
“This is our day that we are able to talk to the community at large and brag a little about how great we are, which is not an understatement,” said board chair Andrew Hodgson during the annual general meeting Oct. 12 at Rhubarb Restaurant.
“In a lot of areas, we lead the country,” he said, pointing out HCDC has the largest loan portfolio of all 268 development corporations in the country.
Founded in 1986, HCDC is a non-profit organization overseen by a 15-member volunteer board of directors and run by five staff.
And even in a time when technology is so heavily relied upon, it’s the personal connections that continue to make all the difference, said executive director Andy Campbell.
“I think we’ve been successful because our staff works with people one-on-one, and I think that’s going to continue and we will continue to grow based on that,” said Campbell.
It receives funding from FedDev Ontario, a program of the federal government.
It is one of 61 Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) in rural Ontario.
Of the 1,795 loans that have been disbursed, only four per cent or $2.9 million have been written off.
It was less than two per cent last year, which is “really impressive” considering the risk involved, said Tim Degeer, who presented the auditor’s report.
Staff presented 90 loan applications to the investment committee, of which 77 were approved, two were declined and 11 withdrawn. This resulted in 13 new startups and allowed 64 businesses to expand or maintain operations.
More than two thirds, or $3 million, went to the service sector. The second and third most funded sectors were construction at $775,000 and manufacturing at $415,000.
Of the four municipalities in the county, Dysart received the most loans at 41, Minden Hills was second with 25, Algonquin Highlands came third with seven and Highlands East only had one. Three went to businesses in Kawartha Lakes and Renfrew through partnerships with neighbouring CFDCs.
Half a million dollars came from FedDev’s Eastern Ontario Development Program (EODP). HCDC completed its second year of a five-year, $2.5 million contract for funding. This program, which is only available in rural eastern Ontario, provides grants to businesses and community innovation, including non-profit organizations.
“The structure of the EODP program allows us to continue to encourage business to become more strategic,” said assistant director Patti Tallman.
“We’re very fortunate to have it,” said Campbell.
Patricia Lamoureux, economic development officer for FedDev, praised HCDC for its work in the community.
“What you do here, I think, is very important,” said Lamoureux, adding that the organization’s volunteers are advocates for others.
“I see the strategic investments that you’re making in the community,” she said. “It’s all about making entrepreneurs adaptable and knowledgeable. It’s about getting the retention of people that live here and attracting new people.”
The meeting concluded after a presentation from Grant Roughley, vice-president of North Frontenac Telephone Company.
Roughley spoke about his company’s plans to improve high-speed Internet service in Haliburton and Minden.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.