Small Business Confidence Drops, Appetite to Invest Rises

Small businesses in Alberta and the other Prairie provinces are feeling less confident about their prospects for 2013, but are more willing to invest

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In 2011, Alberta’s oilpatch was poised to regain the ground it lost during the recession, with a strong upswing predicted for the province’s oil-and-gas support services, construction and retail firms. But a recent snapshot taken by BMO shows a notable drop in small business confidence over the past six months for Alberta. The Prairies (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) are seeing an even steeper drop in confidence.

According to the latest BMO Small Business Confidence Report released today, the Confidence Index Score for Alberta dropped from 66 to 59 (out of 100) from October. The Prairies fell from 71 to 54.

Don Beavis, commercial banking area manager at BMO, says there may be some industry-specific reason for the dip in confidence. Recent media coverage of Alberta’s challenges, particularly in the gas sector, may have left some business owners on edge, leading to lower confidence scores.

But, he adds that while these industries still aren’t at the level they were a few years ago, they have been stable. “Finding skilled labour is still challenging—but it’s not like it was a few years ago. That adds to the business owner’s confidence,” says Beavis.

It’s this relative stability that Beavis credits with a bump in willingness to invest. Small businesses in all regions indicated they plan to invest more in their business this year.

“I work in the Alberta marketplace and we’re still hearing good feedback,” says Beavis. “People are making some spends they wouldn’t have a few years ago, so there is confidence.”

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