Expand in the USA has a specialized news feed featuring stories of Canadian SMEs pursuing their expansion strategies south of the border. The news feed is comprehensive, covering a breadth of information, including:
• Media stories
• Blog posts
• Government agency newsletters
• Briefing papers from law firms, think tanks and business consultants
• News releases from SMEs and other organizations
Many of these news pieces pertain to acquisitions, usually by larger companies, and the opening of new business locations, actively promoted by the parties themselves, their advisors, financing entities involved, and state and local economic development agencies.
Looking across the entire range of stories, we see that the list of Canadian businesses expanding in the USA covers most industries, the manufacturing and service sectors, and every region of Canada.
For instance, see the following examples:
• Acquisitions – Agropur (cheese), Avison Young (real estate,) Corix (water systems), Enerflex (oil and gas services), FirstService (property management), Lassonde (juice), Stantec (engineering), Stella-Jones (wood treatment), TransForce (trucking), Unique Foods (beverages), Zenan Glass (alcoholic beverage containers);
• New operations – Accent Stainless Steel (micro-brewing systems), Avison Young (real estate), Brunner (automotive), Canada Metal (Pacific) (metal products and die castings), Cascades (tissues), Champion Petfoods (pet food), Eclipse Automation (automated equipment), Exchange Lab (marketing services), EyeReturn (marketing services), JMS Russel Metals (steel and aluminum products), Kids & Company (childcare), Koolatron (consumer goods), Leclerc (snack food), Martinrea (automotive), Millenium1 Solutions (call centre), Precision Fab (automotive), Price Industries (HVAC), Reena (health products), Richelieu (apparel), Sandman (hotels), Seccuris (tech security), SLM (logistics);
• Franchises – Freshii (QSR), Tim Hortons (QSR), Hero Burgers (QSR), Wok Box (QSR)
• Exporting – Bain Magique (baths and showers), Beau’s (beer), CoolIT (computer fans), DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods (teas), Espro (coffee makers), Garden Protein (food), Painted Rock Estate (wine), Patrick Roberge Productions (event organizing);
• Joint Ventures – C.A. Bancorp (insurance)
• Retailers – Arc’teryx (outdoor clothing), Kit and Ace (apparel), Running Room (athletic wear)
“Tip of the Iceberg”
However, even with coverage this far and wide – does it show the full extent of Canadian activity for expanding in the US?
Not even close. It’s just the “tip of the iceberg.”
Canada’s small business community is much more active than that these selected media reports would suggest.
In fact, in 2007, 36% of SMEs with annual revenues of $10 – $49 million did exports. And according to Industry Canada calculations using data from Statistics Canada, in 2009, 86% of Canadian exporters were SMEs. Put another way, that same year, small businesses (with less than 100 employees) were responsible for $68 billion (25%) of the total value of exports, with an average value of $2 million per firm. Medium sized businesses (with 100 – 499 employees) accounted for $51 billion of the total value of exports, with an average value of $13 million per firm.
The overall SME activity in the US is bound to be extensive, given these numbers. But exactly how many Canadian firms are we talking about?
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact number, but consider that in 2013 Ontario alone tallied more than $350 billion in exports, 78% of which went to the United States. There are many thousands of Canadian firms doing business in the United States, the vast majority of which are SMEs. The number of Canadian companies with offices or operations in the U.S. is also in the thousands.
The number of Canadian firms expanding in the US is far greater than the handful that receive coverage in the business press.
Why is that?
In its Exporting to the US White Paper, EDC emphasizes that Canada enjoys a significant sense of familiarity and proximity with the United States. Perhaps it’s an over-familiarity that lets Canadian firms “fly below the radar” when they set up south of the border.
Or perhaps Canadian SMEs are not promoting themselves as aggressively as their US competitors?
Terry Flynn, a professor of Communications Management at McMaster University, and a former national president of the Canadian Public Relations Society, has noted a considerable difference between PR activity between US and Canadian companies.
“[Americans] are more visible, louder, more colourful in how they do things than we are,” Flynn explained in an interview. “We’re quieter, more prone to listening than speaking, more interested in mitigating conflict.”
Whatever the case, there are a high number of SMEs pursuing their growth strategies in the United States, and while the Expand in the USA media archive is a good snapshot into individual cases, it’s only a snippet into the overall activity.
The paucity of news reporting in this area should inspire all Canadian business leaders to work harder to let people know about the amazing stories that are driving the growth of Canadian SMEs. Communication about the size and activity of a market are essential to building a strong community of like-minded individuals and companies.
The Rest of the Iceberg – the Expand in the USA Conference in March 2015
The good news is we have a forum for examining the “rest of the iceberg.”
These topics and more will be discussed at the Expand in the USA conference on March 24 and 25, 2015 in Mississauga. To register, please visit the conference page here.