Brendan Montour from the MCK and Coreen Delormier from Tewatohnhi’saktha stop by The Eastern Door for a business walk earlier this summer, collecting answers and moving on to the next local business on their list. (Kate Sheridan, The Eastern Door)
Kahnawake’s economic development commission Tewatohnhi’saktha is compiling information from its end-of-June Business Walk, where the commission, along with other organizations in the community, tried to get a better understanding of what businesses are up against in Kahnawake.
The core four questions asked to businesses were: how old is your business, what do you like about doing business in Kahnawake, What do you need to thrive and what specific information would you like to have access to?
Walkers also asked about company size, what percentage of clients and staff are Native, what are some challenges and questions about benefits.
In the 88 businesses surveyed, Tewatohnhi’saktha discovered that there were 1,873 jobs with 1,275 Native and 598 non-Native workers.
The number one difficulty for businesses, according to the walk, was finding employees.
“It’s an issue,” said Tewatohnhi’saktha CEO Kyle Delisle. “It’s not just a Kahnawake issue. In the economic development industry it’s something we’re seeing, which we’re trying to address across North America.
“You have people saying, ‘I can’t find a job,’ and you have businesses saying, ‘we can’t find people.’ There’s a gap there and we have to figure out why there’s a gap there and how do we close it?”
A key, as always, is education. Jobs for those without advanced degrees are having a harder and harder time finding work across Turtle Island.
The surveyors were not able to hit all businesses in town, but came close to the amount surveyed in the Labour Market Study the commission did five years ago.
Next year, the walk will need to begin later, as many shops aren’t open at 9 a.m.
Another thing surveyors found was that the majority of businesses in Kahnawake do not set up pension plans and other benefits for their employees, which is something the commission will try to help with.
“Overall, almost 65 percent of those interviewed don’t provide benefits to their employees,” said Delisle. “We knew it would be high because there’s that whole issue of if you register for EI, then you’ve got to register with Revenue Quebec and that kind of opens you up to other areas and assessments, and I think that’s an issue of how do businesses stay off Revenue Quebec’s radar?”
Understanding this fact gives Tewatohnhi’saktha staff an opportunity to help them.
The main goal of the walk was for Tewatohnhi’saktha to connect with the business community better.
“The primary intention was more to get out there and get face-to-face with the businesses. One of the issues we had when we did our communications survey, a lot of businesses felt that we weren’t in the community enough, never visit their businesses,” said Delisle.
“One intent was to show that we’re out in the community. We’re talking to all businesses, and part of our switch in strategies is that we’re here.”
The switch in strategy also includes speaking to all sizes of business, from startups to large-scale enterprises.
“The next step is to take the business walk information that we have and start to look at the programs and services we have and how do we need to change them or come up with new ones to better meet the needs of the business community,” said Delisle.
One such function Delisle knows is needed is a business retention and expansion program.
“To really help the existing businesses,” he said. “This is something we found in the business walk.”
Staff from Community Services, Step by Step and Mohawk Council department heads and chiefs accompanied the commission staff, so all parties could be involved in getting a better understanding of the community’s business needs.
“We had a lot of participation from the other organizations. Our intent was to try to get all of our economic development partners involved.”
Other issues included the Mercier Bridge construction, accessing community funds, and businesses not being consulted adequately when new laws, licenses or regulations are put in place.