Michelle Mungall, MLA for Nelson-Creston, Liz Cohoe, owner of Lillie and Cohoe, Andrea Wilkey, Executive Director, Community Futures Central Kootenay, and Michael Hoher, Export Navigator advisor. Photo submitted

Pilot project to assist small business exporters extended

Program has grown 50 per cent in six months

Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, speaking on behalf of Minister of State for Trade, George Chow, announced a one-year extension of the Export Navigator pilot program for small businesses and entrepreneurs in Nelson on Wednesday.

“Nelson has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and extraordinarily vibrant business community,” said Mungall, speaking at Lillie & Cohoe, a millinery design studio. “The Export Navigator pilot is an important link to innovation and new economic opportunities for communities like ours in the Kootenays.”

In a press release, Chow stated, “Export Navigator is meeting a need to help small- and medium-sized business owners and entrepreneurs throughout B.C. build capacity to reach new markets. Supporting small business innovation and reach will help build economically diverse, sustainable communities and create good-paying jobs for British Columbians.”

Chow said the program helps businesses in rural regions get their goods and service to new international and interprovincial markets.

The pilot program has grown by 50 per cent in the past six months, with 52 businesses taking advantage of the free service for the first time. The pilot will be extended to March 31, 2019, through $607,800 in funding from the province, and in-kind support from Western Economic Diversification Canada’s Community Futures network partners.

The Export Navigator pilot helps B.C. businesses in six B.C. regions become export ready, by providing access to community-based export advisors who connect businesses with programs and services that are unique to their business needs. Specially trained export advisors provide personalized, step-by-step approaches to help businesses prepare to become exporters, navigate the services available to them and tackle the logistics of customs certifications and other export requirements.

Since the launch of the pilot program in October 2016, 157 companies have engaged with Export Navigator. Twenty of them are in the final stage of the program, which focuses on export market strategies. Program participants are primarily focused on exports to Canadian provinces, the United States and China.

“Being able to live here in Nelson and access personalized help in navigating the complex world of international commerce is a huge benefit,” said Liz Cohoe, owner and designer at Lillie & Cohoe. “The Export Navigator pilot has helped me access more efficient ways of moving my products into the U.S., and as I look to further expand my business into new markets.”

The Export Navigator pilot was developed by the province in partnership with Western Economic Diversification Canada, Small Business BC, Community Futures offices and the Comox Valley Economic Development Society. The pilot supports the collective commitment to building a strong, sustainable economy that works for everyone, by growing regional economic development and helping small businesses export their goods and services.

Quick Facts:

* Export Navigator is available in the following six B.C. regions: Cariboo, Central Vancouver Island, Comox Valley, Kootenay Boundary, North Okanagan and the Pacific Northwest.

* To date, more than 157 B.C. businesses have benefited from the Export Navigator pilot.

* The largest groups of participating businesses are from the agrifoods sector, followed by manufacturing, consumer goods and clean technology.

* In 2017, total British Columbia goods exported worldwide were almost $44 billion.

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