Nfld. & Labrador

Are we on the rebound? N.L. business owners among the most optimistic in Canada

Lower oil prices, higher taxes, provincial cutbacks — none of this is destroying the optimism of business owners in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to a new study.

83% of businesses expect higher sales in 2017: BDC study

Small- and medium-sized businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador are confident they will see more revenue in 2017. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador business owners are among the most optimistic in the entire country, according to a newly released study.

While the province has had its share of setbacks — lower resource prices, provincial cutbacks — business owners in Newfoundland and Labrador appear to believe the province has turned the corner, according to a study released by the Business Development Bank of Canada.

According to BDC chief economist Pierre Cléroux, business owners in Newfoundland and Labrador are confident of growth in 2017. (LinkedIn)

A full 83 per cent of provincial businesses expect their revenues to increase in 2017, says Pierre Cléroux, the chief economist with the government-owned capital firm.

That's compared with 69 per cent across Canada and 75 per cent in the entire Atlantic region. The survey was conducted in August and September 2016.

"The last two years has been difficult, so probably what businesspeople see is this year they are going actually to do better than over the last two years," Cléroux told CBC Radio's the St. John's Morning Show.

He called the last two years in the province a "recession," but said the tides are turning now. Cléroux says the worst of the drops in oil and iron ore prices appear to be over, and demand for aquaculture and fishery products is set to increase as well.

"This is not going to solve all the problems, but I think 2017 will bring more growth into the province," he said. "The first step of a recovery is to see growth in the economy, and the rest will come after." 

Healthy transitions

One of the businesses that's expecting a good 2017 is Wedgwood Cafe and Catering in St. John's. The business recently won a St. John's Board of Trade award for innovative practices.

Owner Peter Wedgwood says his restaurant has recently begun to refocus on healthy foods and healthy eating — which he's hoping will bring new customers to his shop.

"Newfoundlanders, by and large, are relatively unhealthy. But everybody wants to be healthy," he said.  "So as long as everybody wants to keep trying, there's definitely a market."

Wedgwood Cafe is offering a healthier menu, and has begun offering meal-planning and preparation service for those who want to eat healthier. 

The owner said the transition began with a rethinking of his personal health, and he soon realized there was a market for others too.

"The best thing to do is figure out, you know, what somebody is not doing that needs to be done," he said. "What can you do well to differentiate yourself from other people."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show