Four Saskatchewan cities are among the top communities in Canada to start and grow a business.

According to recent results of an annual survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Saskatoon and Regina make the top 10 list for major Canadian cities while Swift Current and Lloydminster rank in the top 10 for mid-sized ones.

“We’re seeing Saskatchewan cities near the top of the list and we’ve noted that year after year,’’ says Ted Mallett, vice president and chief economist of the CFIB and co-author of the survey. Mallett adds Saskatchewan communities have slipped a bit in the standings, a situation that may be related to pressure on commodity prices.

The CFIB’s eighth annual survey looked at 14 entrepreneurship indicators grouped into three major categories. “Presence” includes indicators that reflect the number of people who own businesses relative to the size of the community. “Perspective’’ looks at business owners’ optimism and growth plans, while the “Policy’’ indicators include the actions local governments take with respect to business taxation and regulations. The data are used to rate cities on a scale of 0 to 100, with the best ones receiving an overall score near 70 and the worst about 40.

Saskatoon registered an overall score of 67.7, enough to rank fourth among cities with populations greater than 150,000. Regina ranked ninth with a score of 60.9. In last year’s survey, the two cities ranked third and fourth, respectively. Communities surrounding Calgary, which survey authors refer to as “Calgary periphery’’, ranked highest among major cities with an overall score of 73.

Lloydminster and Swift Current ranked sixth and seventh among mid-sized cities with scores of 69.4 each – the top city in this grouping is Penticton with a score of 72.7. Lloydminster and Swift Current ranked first and 12th in the 2014 survey.

In a report accompanying the results, survey authors explain why entrepreneurship is an essential element in the growth of communities.

“Revolving in a virtuous circle, entrepreneurs create the founding economic bases for communities’ existence, which in turn define the environment for new ventures and reasons for other businesses to grow or relocate.’’

Showing business-minded people the best communities to start, expand or relocate a business is not the primary purpose of the survey, says Mallett. It’s intended to generate discussion among policy makers and economic development professionals about how they can improve the small business environment in their municipalities.

“Everybody tries to swing for fence, trying to attract that ‘home run’ big enterprise to their community because they know that brings lots of tax dollars. They’re much less able to deal with organic growth, even though most jobs are created by businesses that are created within that community.’’

Mallett says that while choosing a new community in which to do business is largely based on circumstances specific to that particular endeavour, he acknowledges the survey can help in the selection process.

“For those who are looking to expand or possibly grow into other areas, they should absolutely take a look and evaluate these high-ranking cities. And municipalities that have most of the checkmarks in our survey deserve credit.’’

Starting a business in Saskatchewan
Full report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (Opens as a PDF)