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Co-ops and SMEs: Striving Together to Help New Brunswick Prosper

Posted on Thursday October 18, 2018

Co-ops and SMEs: Striving Together to Help New Brunswick Prosper

Small Business Week provides an opportunity to celebrate the success and vitality of Acadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Active across our region, they form the backbone of our economy and drive its growth. October is also the month in which we celebrate Co-op Week. The co-operative movement is highly dynamic in New Brunswick, where it thrives across sectors ranging from agriculture to finance, recreational tourism and personal services. Let's take a look at the synergy between these two driving forces shaping the future of our province.


Portrait of SMEs in New Brunswick

In New Brunswick, small enterprises are classified as those with fewer than 20 employees, while medium-sized enterprises have up to 500 employees.

Despite certain preconceived notions, SMEs employ most of our province's labour force and generate the great majority of its wealth. They are active in practically every business segment and help keep our economy moving. Here are some key figures on SMEs in New Brunswick:

  • strength in numbers: with more than 25,000 active SMEs, New Brunswick exceeds the Canadian average for number of SMEs per capita
  • economic role: small enterprises (companies with fewer than 50 employees) contribute 25% of New Brunswick's GDP
  • job creation: more than 90% of private-sector jobs are concentrated in small and medium-sized enterprises
  • future of farming: positioned on the leading edge of the organic and local farming movements, agricultural SMEs are agents of change in society and the way we consume food
  • new economy: dynamic and innovative, New Brunswick SMEs are responsible for a significant amount of research and development into new technologies in the province


Co-operatives: Engines of economic AND social development

The impact of consumer co-operatives is widely known, along with that of financial and food co-ops. However, co-operatives are also ? quietly but surely ? very active across a range of other sectors.

Housing co-ops: these help to provide tens of thousands of Canadians access to quality, affordable housing, something otherwise out of reach of many households due to current rental market conditions.

Agricultural and forestry co-ops: these bring producers together to take advantage of numbers, whether to negotiate the purchase price of necessary goods and services in their respective industries or to increase their bargaining power against governments and other regulatory entities. They also facilitate the pooling of technological and human resources to help solve structural or systemic problems. 

Worker and solidarity co-operatives: these offer a variety of services to the people of New Brunswick, from museums and cafés to day cares, community centres and centres to assist people facing various challenges. Helping many workers to gain skills in order to re-enter the labour market, these co-ops offer services in diverse sectors, including:

  • domestic violence
  • organized sports
  • child care
  • elder care
  • drug addiction
  • environmental protection
  • radio stations (e.g. CIMS Restigouche)
  • regional development co-ops (e.g. CDR Acadie)

Worker shareholder co-ops: these are distinct from worker co-operatives in that the enterprise's employees are also its owners. This model is frequently used for purchasing companies when the original owners want to step away from them.


Financial co-ops versus traditional banks: A matter of values

Canada's banking system is regularly ranked among the soundest and most reliable on the planet by the World Economic Forum, and the co-operative movement plays a fundamental role in this regard. Active in every province and territory, financial co-ops stand apart from banks for their commitment to sharing the profit on their business activities with their members. The outcome is a level of civic commitment unparalleled in the corporate world. The true beneficiaries of these co-ops are consequently their members and communities rather than shareholders motivated solely by the size of dividends and the value of their shares. The largest Francophone financial institution in Acadia, UNI has injected more than $20 million back into local communities over the past decade in the form of donations, rebates, scholarships and sponsorships. Learn more about our programs and how we can help you.


SMEs and financial co-operatives: Natural partners

As engines of economic development, SMEs need to be assisted throughout all phases of their development, from start-up through transfer to the next generation of owner-operators. UNI provides support every year to more than 10,000 entrepreneurs in New Brunswick seeking advisory, support, credit, insurance and financing services. Our business locations around the province offer decision-making expertise and a local presence that make the difference. Our strong business model, our employees' professionalism and our determination to uphold co-operative values in our communities make UNI Financial Cooperation the ideal partner of small businesses across Acadia.


Geneviève Lalonde, an active spokesperson embodying co-operative values

Geneviève Lalonde is an especially inspiring Acadian athlete. In her role as spokesperson of UNI Community and our Millenium youth program, she embodies the values of the cooperative movement through her determination and dedication to a more people-oriented and sustainable future. As we mark Co-op Week, she is helping to share UNI's message in this regard.

New Brunswick's capacity to rise to the challenges of today and tomorrow will depend on the resourcefulness and solidarity of the women and men living and working in this province. From decarbonization of the economy to the aging population to the transition to the knowledge economy, the solutions will have to come from both small businesses and the cooperative movement, both of which remain on the front lines of regional economic development.

As always, we look forward to changing New Brunswick with you.

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