Area development group sees investment results first hand

A company on a back street in Fergus ships its construction goods all over the world. A store is re-opened in a downtown. And a food bank is operating a commercial kitchen.

Those are a few of the success stories of the Waterloo Wellington Community Futures Development Corporation. It uses government financing to provide loans to entrepreneurs so they can get started in a business – even though banks have rejected their financing  applications.

On Oct. 21, members of the board toured several area businesses to see what their decisions had created. They seemed impressed with what they saw.

And board member Paul Rogers agreed that not everything the board approved has been successful. There is a six per cent failure rate for businesses that take out loans from the WWCFDC to get started in a business. Still, that is a better survival average than those who start a business on their own. A lot more of those businesses fail.

The Futures group, though, offers to work with business operators, helping them see to important things, like keeping a good set of books, and watching out for wasted time and effort. Sometimes business operators get so close to what they are doing they fail to see the big picture. That is one reason Futures offers business mentoring and courses.

One business that seems to be going great guns was already started when it approached the WWCFDC. Northern Composite, of Fergus, makes building supplies for decks – out of rice hulls. President Duane Burnett said he and five other people invested in the company, and it got started just as the recession hit.

WWCFDC financing got the company through that tough time, and now it has good sales in Germany with its specially designed decking. He added that a system of clips to hold a deck together makes it easy for cottagers to remove a dock for the winter, and replace it in spring after the ice is out.

The company is finding market share across Canada and is also looking to expand, with negotiations, in Korea, as well as the United States, and other countries.

The company uses rice hulls combined with various plastic that is often recycled, to offer a unique product. The product is tough, not slippery when wet, and colourful.

After that visit, the board members re-boarded a bus driven by Vinnie Green. They helped him get his White Car Inc. and Grand Limo business started, and he gives the WWCFDC full credit for that.

“Without them, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

The next stop was a business that the WWCFDC had just recently helped. The old Russell building in downtown Fergus has now opened as a market. It already offers such things as meats, cheese, prepared foods, and even a place where people can sharpen their knives, scissors, or other tools.

WWCFDC’s Jana Reichert said the market is a place for entrepreneurs to get a start. For a small fee, they can test their wares and products, and if all goes well, they may be able to start a full fledged business.

The Centre Wellington Food Bank now has a commercial kitchen thanks to cash from the WWCFDC – and its operators are thrilled.

The old kitchen was in poor condition, but a loan allowed the food bank to obtain the goods and equipment they needed. Fred Aleksandrowicz said that in the past few weeks after the kitchen was up and running, the food bank has received “a lot of calls” from people who are interested in renting the kitchen for large parties, or catering.

He noted there is a special rate for using the kitchen for entrepreneurs. As well, local chefs are going to be doing cooking shows on the local cable TV station. They have already filmed one of those shows, not even using a script.

The kitchen has gas ranges, a grill, huge refrigerators, ovens mixing equipment, and storage. Aleksandrowicz noted that the food bank saved thousands of dollars in equipping the kitchen by working with its partners.

The final stop on the tour was National Work Clothing, in Elmira. Brian and Lisa Morawiecki come from a family used to making clothing in eastern Canada.

They found an old building in Elmira that used to make gloves, obtained a loan from WWCFDC, and started purchasing equipment and cloth.

They make work coveralls. The product they turn out includes the latest in fire retardant materials, which is a big plus. Brian Morawiecki said if some coveralls do not meet the code for safety on some projects, an entire project can be shut down. They supply coveralls for the Canadian Steamship Line.

They also decided that there are plenty of women who are working in non traditional jobs, and so they make and sell coveralls designed for women.

Morawiecki and his wife took the financial and business training offered by WWCFDC. They then found machines and computer programs that can save not only material, but do patterns and cuts in half the time an ordinary cutter can do it.

Brian Morawiecki said there are lots of skilled sewers available because of job losses over the past few years. Sewing is generally a minimum wage position, but they pay better than that, and find that happy employees are productive employees.

The WWCFDC is a non-profit organization that will help new businesses get started, and help existing business expand or even get through some difficult times. Clients have to meet a rigourous criteria for a loan, but, then again, the WWCFDC has a 94 per cent success rate.

To contact the WWCFDC, visit, or phone 519-846-9839, or email