The provincial government announced April 21 that the Communities Economic Development Fund can once again start making business loans to northern and Indigenous economic development ventures that can’t get funding from other sources, like banks.
The provincial Crown corporation, headquartered in Thompson, has not lent any money, except through its fisheries loan program, since 2017 following the establishment of a review of the small business loan program in 2018 to see if it was meeting the needs of northern economic development.
Prior to that, CEDF had approved 13 loans for a total of $1.3 million in 2017 and 36 loans for a total of nearly $5.8 million the year before that.
“Our government is making investments to support the development of high-impact, strategic projects that will help drive growth in our province,” said Economic Development Minister Jeff Wharton in an April 21 news release. “The CEDF Business Loan Program will support key sectors of our growing northern economy and help fill financing gaps for businesses that are creating jobs and opportunities in the north.”
CEDF’s small business loans are intended for natural resources initiatives including mining, forestry and commercial fishing, First Nations partnerships outside Winnipeg that promote or enhance Indigenous economic development, and strategic northern infrastructure projects. Loans can be as much as $2 million, and approvals are based on business plans that show how the project will benefit a community, the province or Northern Manitoba, including local employment impacts.
“Expanded lending capacity through the business loan program provides CEDF a critical tool for the execution of the Look North Initiative,” said CEDF CEO Chris Thevenot. “Developmental lending through CEDF over its 50-year history has provided tremendous value to Manitobans by creating jobs, supporting entrepreneurs, and developing industries in some of the most remote areas in Manitoba.”
CEDF is the province’s lead agency for the implementation of its Look North economic development strategy focusing on Northern Manitoba. Key pillars in that plan include capitalizing on northern mineral and resource potential, Indigenous engagement and partnerships, strategic infrastructure, housing challenges and opportunities, the enterprise ecosystem and workforce development.