Board members, staff, family and friends of Sagehill Community Futures gathered on June 15 to celebrate 35 years of the local organization and its contribution to the central Saskatchewan business and professional community. Sagehill is one of a network of 13 Community Futures offices across Saskatchewan committed to supporting small businesses with loan and grant opportunities, strategic planning, and guidance through the waters of small business startup and maintenance.
The organization has been active throughout the stresses of the pandemic by migrating to online formats for presentations and client communication. Now that it’s back to face-to-face engagement, Sagehill Community Futures has exciting plans to support the region in navigating the post-pandemic environment, particularly when it comes to labour challenges.
As part of the evening, Sagehill Community Futures conducted its annual general meeting. Chair Floyd Lueke guided attendees through the past year, marking over $500,000 of regional investment and 55 jobs created, maintained or expanded.
“The Board recognized that with the opening of Saskatchewan, small businesses would require financial assistance in their operations,” stated Lueke. “We developed and introduced our Booster Loan Program. This loan program provides working capital financing to a maximum of $25,000 for a three-year period with a minimum interest rate of 5% to small businesses within our region.”
Connection with clients continued to be robust, Lueke reported, with Sagehill playing a part in the creation or expansion of 224 businesses and 1250 business advisory engagements. Workshops were a mainstay throughout the Covid period, and 348 participants took advantage of the online messaging. As part of the Canada-Saskatchewan Canada-Wide Early Learning and Childcare Agreement, Lueke pointed out that Sagehill assisted in the development of a daycare project that received $280,000 in capital funding and an additional $30,000 plus for materials and equipment.
Lueke reported the continuation of Sagehill’s involvement with the Indigenous Business Development Services Program (IBDS) that assists Indigenous entrepreneurs with start up support and funding.
After the wrap up of the AGM and a generous helping of door prizes, the crowd was treated to the improv comedy antics of Lee Bells and Mark Schweighardt, a.k.a. Don’t Mind Us. The duo are perennial favourites, and with the help of Sagehill staff members in the cast, the pair ran the gamut from “racoon ranching” to “skydiving on a budget.”
CEO Susan Wehage wrapped up the evening with a thanks to Don’t Mind Us, saying that after the previous years of stress and strain, the laughs were in order. She closed with a special announcement of interest to all business owners pondering the current labour market challenge.
“We have listened to the concerns of our local businesses,” said Wehage in her closing, “And we will be holding a one-day conference Tuesday, September 22 in Humboldt on recruiting and retaining employees. We wanted this event to speak to employers in our region, so we contacted Saskatchewan-based facilitators to speak on the issue.”
Included in the presentations will be a human resource consulting firm talking about the “changed worker,” sourcing candidates, hiring for fit, along with other topics. A local business owner who has been rated as one of Canada’s top employers will be on hand to discuss strategic maneuvers in retaining employees, as will an immigrant officer talking about the hiring process. The number one rated Saskatchewan HR recruitment agency will also guide businesses to being standout employers. More details on the event will finalized soon and will be posted on cfsask.ca/sagehill.