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Government funding for manufacturers

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CKCA by Sandra Wood
CMP, Executive Director, CKCA
We’ve all heard the stories or experienced it first-hand. The successes and the unfortunate failures that occur when applying for government funding. Have you spent a lot of time filling out endless forms and paperwork? Have you heard about a funding program after the deadline? What opportunities for funding are you missing right now because you don’t know about them? These situations have created a great deal of cynicism about government funding and yet there are companies who are successful. How do they do it?  

It’s your tax dollar,  speak up
Government scrutinizes how it hands out taxpayer’s money. This is a responsible strategy. Frustration comes from trying to get at the right information, wading through pages of application details and working within timelines that can seem unrealistic. It is equally important that Canadian manufacturers echo the importance to government of how funding Canadian manufacturing means Canadian jobs and supports our economy. Start at the local level and remember to proudly put your CKCA member logo on that communication. If you are manufacturing in Canada and feel you are in a strong position to get funding, then why not go for it?  When you succeed, reach out to your MPP or MP to acknowledge the support you received and how it has helped your company, tell your story! We all know the value in feedback it can be a powerful tool.

Much more than an application
Government does not make it simple in letting industry know what funding programs exist. This means the onus is on you to figure out what to do, which is why CKCA hosted a webinar in February on government funding. We connected with Mentor Works, a third-party company specializing in government funding applications. Mentor Works monitors Canadian federal and provincial grant and loan programs, they look at ways to “stack” funding from multiple programs allowing you to tap both levels of funding.  
Why go with a third-party service? Because they will enable you over time to apply for funding so you can become independent if you so choose. They will help you optimize the amount of money you get from funding by ensuring you provide the right information in the right places and maximize your budgets with the correct eligible expenses. This alone can help offset their fees for service. They also provide insights on the metrics and impacts used by government to approve funding, in other words they  help you build the strongest case to go after funding which also places you in a strong position for future funding opportunities.   

A kitchen cabinet manufacturer’s perspective
We were excited to learn of 
one cabinet company who has worked with Mentor Works so 
we invited Carolyn Iyer, COO 
of Paris Kitchens to talk about 
her experience in working 
with Mentor Works.
Paris Kitchens was founded in 1902, is Canadian owned and the oldest cabinet company in Canada. They manufacture high-end, quality, fine cabinetry and serve the GTA and Golden Horseshoe area in Ontario.
Carolyn touched on various funding programs including the Workshare Program, the Intern Co-op Program and software funding programs for implementation and training. Because Paris Kitchens is engaged with Mentor Works they attend their webinars and are on their mailing list to receive all government announcements.
While Paris Kitchens has learned to navigate government funding, they still see more value in having Mentor Works guide them through the process each time because most applications are administratively heavy. It also allows their company to match strategic initiatives with certain funding programs. For example, Carolyn spoke about how the 18-24-years-olds were greatly impacted by COVID-19 because the many jobs they typically take through the summer are gone (i.e. retail, restaurants etc.). By using 
the intern hiring incentives programs the government is offering funding for, you can bring these students into your
business. You are training these students and further developing their skills, in exchange for tapping into some great talent coming out of colleges. From CKCA’s perspective, this is a great opportunity to expose a generation of youth who know little to nothing about the wood sector.
When asked about the value in paying fees to a third-party funding service like Mentor Works, Carolyn suggests you “budget it in just as you would any consulting service.” She added “I’ve never even heard of half of the programs out there, who has?” It is clear using a strategic resource, like Mentor Works, will expose your company to many strategic opportunities to give your company a competitive advantage. With an increasing focus on manufacturing in Canada, now is the time to pay closer attention to what is being offered. While historically many funding programs for manufacturing have been based in Ontario, there is more being offered across Canada.

Get ready, 
get set, commit
The key to accessing any funding is to commit to the process and plan your investments to position your company for the best outcome. Do not go after too many programs, stay focused on just a few that work with your strategic model. Be ready, be proactive. If you do not have time to read in detail the 25-page application, then consider the value that a third-party expert like Mentor Works can bring. Do not just look at government funding on the short-term, consider a long-term strategic approach so you don’t miss out on future funding opportunities.  Set your company up for success with smart cash flow planning consideration.

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