This week the Herald will be taking a look, not at a business, but a local organization that has helped establish and support businesses within the community.

Community Futures Nicola Valley (CFNV) is part of a national economic development program that has been supporting community economic development and small businesses for more than 30 years, since 1986.

Currently, CFNV consists of Manuel Olguin, Business Development Officer; Mae Ketter, Community Economic Development Coordinator; Fran Delaney, Financial Coordinator; and Joe Nemeth, Administrative assistant. There is also a volunteer Board of Directors consisting of eight members, and two members at large that provide extensive knowledge and experience of the local economy.

That knowledge and experience helps CFNV to provide businesses with many different avenues of support, so that they can become successful in the Nicola Valley.

“We provide a variety of different support services, including business loans, training and coaching, and access to expert resources to people wanting to start, expand, or sell a business, and to owners of small- and medium-sized businesses in the community,” said Manuel Olguin.

“We assist in business retention and keep in the pulse of what is happening to our local businesses in order that we can help in any way possible. We also work in partnership with other business lenders, educational institutions, not-for-profits and community governments to grow and diversify our local economy. We provide support for Not-for-Profit organizations involved in tourism, arts and culture while supporting community vitality.”

CFNV also works with other local partners, including First Nations communities, the City of Merritt, the Merritt and District Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Nicola Valley on joint projects that help local small businesses.

“Community Futures is an alternate source of business funding offering financing to businesses for start-up, expansion or business purchase,” said Olguin.

“Term financing up to five years to a maximum of $150,000 is available to qualified applicants. This funding is available to applicants who are looking to start, purchase or already own a business in the Nicola Valley. Also, individuals, businesses or organizations who require funding for start-up costs, working capital purposes, capital acquisitions, expansion or purchase of an existing business.

“Residents, businesses or organizations of the Nicola Valley who are unable to access funding from traditional sources, can apply for funding. Community Futures works in partnership with traditional lenders in order to meet the borrowers full lending requirements.”

Funding ranges from General Loans; a Youth Loan Fund for applicants between the ages of 18 to 29; a Community Business Loan for businesses in the forestry sector, aquaculture, manufacturing, tourism, developing clean or renewable energy, developing innovative technology or using technology in an innovative manner, and beginning or expanding the export of goods or services from BC; there is also a fund for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities for business owners who are managing ongoing disability or health issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on businesses around the world, with the businesses of Merritt being no exception. CFNV has stepped up to assist with the relief and recovery efforts offered by various levels of government.

“Community Futures offices have been tasked with disbursing the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund,” explained Olguin.

“This funding provides up to $40,000 for businesses who are suffering due to this pandemic. As of today, CFNV has disbursed over $600,000 to assist 18 small businesses in the Nicola Valley since May 2020. Funding is still available. Our office is also part of a Regional Community Futures, TOTA Taskforce, which will implement projects, access needed resources, and share best practices to revitalize, support, and grow the tourism sector, during the pandemic and beyond.

“Helping the tourism industry recover and become more resilient for the long term is imperative. This will assist our local tourism businesses with the ongoing exchange and discussion of best practices relating to the development of sustainable communities and destinations.”

CFNV has also played an important role in Merritt’s part of the BC Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) in which entrepreneurs immigrate to a BC community with the intention of starting a business.

“CFNV has been the lead organization or community partner in events such as the Annual not-for-profit Community Engagement Fair, BC Provincial Nominee Pilot Program, Merritt Youth Entrepreneur Program, Blade Sign Project, Winter Window Walk amongst others,” said Olguin.

“One of the core services offered by CFNV is the trainings, seminars and workshops that are provided to the Community, many of which are delivered during Small Business Week held annually in October. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, CFNV and partners delivered 22 different projects fitting this description, reaching a total of 634 participants across the Nicola Valley.”

For those looking to start a business here in Merritt, or for those who have a business idea but aren’t sure how to start, need assistance or funding outside of the conventional parameters, CFNV should be their first stop.

They can be reached in the office at 2181 Quilchena Ave., by phone at 250-378-3923 or via the contact form on their website.