The PEI Connectors program says expansion to Summerside is part of its mandate going forward to help set up new immigrant businesses across the Island .
Nicole Bellefleur, manager of PEI Connectors, said starting in April, the government-funded program will have a staff person based in Summerside.
"I think there are opportunities for us to do more," she said. "And that's what we're hoping to accomplish with having a person in Summerside."
PEI Connectors was set up in 2011 to help immigrant entrepreneurs navigate the Island's business community and find opportunities.
Most of their clients have moved to P.E.I. through the business impact category of the Provincial Nominee Program, which requires them to start up a new business or purchase an existing one.
While PEI Connectors is considered a provincial service, all the staff right now work out of the Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce office.
Bellefleur said the majority of the 200 businesses set up with the help of PEI Connectors are located in Queens county, in central P.E.I.
"Most of the clients we've seen since the program launched were choosing to settle in Charlottetown, and as the capital city, they've chosen to start their businesses here," she said.
"But we really want to make sure they're exposed to the opportunities across the Island."
Jing Zhang moved to the P.E.I. from China in 2014 and with the assistance of the program, opened Mason Antiques in Charlottetown's Confederation Court Mall eight months ago.
More resources and opportunities
Through an interpreter, she said she settled in Charlottetown because she thought there would be more resources and opportunities.
"I came to PEI Connectors because they have a good reputation with the Chinese immigration group," she said.
"In the beginning, I had a problem finding a commercial space for my shop. I spent three months, but after getting the help from PEI Connectors, I found this location that's so good to display my items and promote my business."
Bellefleur's hope is that the staff person in Summerside will be able to better connect with West Prince's business community and find possible opportunities for newcomers in that part of the province.
Summerside's Deputy Mayor Brent Gallant is hoping for the same thing.
"They have done a fantastic job, but they've focused most of their efforts in the city of Charlottetown," he said. "There are opportunities in Summerside and we'll certainly benefit from having PEI Connectors here."
Kings county workshops planned
Bellefleur said the Summerside position will be funded by the provincial government and is being considered a one-year pilot project. She says there's also been interest from community groups in Kings County looking for help attracting immigrant entrepreneurs.
"We haven't got a dedicated body for Kings County yet, but we're certainly going to be doing some business development activities in that region," she said.
"We look forward to working with the chambers of commerce and different business groups in that area to bring PEI Connectors' initiatives and activities there."
Bellefleur said PEI Connectors is also planning workshops in Kings County, to try and connect immigrant entrepreneurs with business opportunities there.
There will be hundreds of immigrants looking for those opportunities.
Last year, 600 immigrants either moved to P.E.I. or were nominated to move to the Island through the Provincial Nominee Program with a promise to either start up or buy a business within two years.
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