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Helping immigrant businesses good for everyone

Posted on August 29, 2018 by Lethbridge Sun Times

F­or many years, Lethbridge has enjoyed a reputation for great international food.
Chinese cuisine was the first non-English option, no doubt. But today residents and visitors can choose from a growing number of tastes — from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Head to Calgary, of course, and you’ll find even more possibilities. And that’s become true in many cities right across Canada.
And what’s made that happen, much of the time, is the arrival of new immigrants and refugees.
They’ve seen an opportunity to start a small business, and they’ve taken a chance. Of course, leaving their homeland in hopes of coming to Canada — sometimes at great risk to their freedom and their life — may have meant taking chances that were far more precarious.
Even so, starting a new business involves risk, even for people who are well acquainted with Canada’s regulatory requirements and labour codes. For newcomers, it could prove bewildering indeed.
That’s why initiatives like the one announced this week by Alberta’s economic development minister are significant. The new Immigrant Entrepreneur Program will offer one-on-one business advising, specific training tailored to the needs of new Albertans and guidebooks written in a number of languages.
Immigrant women will be a focus, officials say, and there will be an outreach to small business providers and organizations outside the big cities.
And Business Link, jointly funded by the provincial and federal governments, will provide the services. Known as “Alberta’s entrepreneurial hub,” the arms-length agency is also helping aboriginal businesses get going.
While some people back east seem to see newcomers as a threat to their “old stock” privilege, most Western Canadians recognize every community and province has been built by successive waves of newcomers — whether they’ve been called refugees or immigrants. Lethbridge is one of so many communities that has benefitted from the arrival of these resourceful, ready-to-work men and women.
While the cost of this latest initiative is small — $336,000 over the next two years — the intent is clear. Alberta’s economy grows when new people arrive, put down roots and get to work. If they’re able to start a new business, they’ll likely be hiring more people as well.
Of course, restaurants are just one of many kinds of business that our newcomers launch. But when a new business brings flavours from another part of the world to Lethbridge, so much the better!

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