Small business owners are the lifeblood of the Canadian economy but many don’t take full advantage of the programs offered by three levels of government, says the Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

“We can only approve the applications we receive,” Gary Goodyear said at a small business seminar Wednesday at Windsor’s Caboto Club. “Our current funding envelope is winding down but there’s a further $920 million in the pot which will fund new programs we’ll be rolling out over the next few months.

“So we urge all small and medium-sized business owners to access our programs to see where they might fit,” said Goodyear. “The major impediments to growth are the economy and access to financing. We get it because we understand small business owners and entrepreneurs are key components of economic growth and stability.”

Ken Wheeldon, who recently launched Next Thinking, said he attended the seminars to network and become registered as a consultant to help companies navigate through the funding application processes.

“It’s amazing how many people don’t attend these events because they are missing out on a great deal of information which could help their businesses,” said Wheeldon, who has past experience in the automotive, manufacturing and professional services sectors. “In many cases you need expertise to access these programs and to even know they exist which is where I believe my company can help.”

Others attending the seminars, organized by  the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre, were looking for more immediate assistance for such things as employee recruitment.

Todd Brancaccio, owner of custom precision machining shop Detail and Design, said his company has been extremely busy for the past three years and that finding experienced employees has become a challenge.

“You can find people with no experience who are looking to switch careers but we’re busy and we need people who can step in right away,” said Brancaccio. “We’ve been fortunate since the beat down in ’08 and we’ve managed to come out the other side fairly well but now we’re in a growth mode.”

Brancaccio said a lot of experienced skilled trades have left the industry, including three friends who have retrained as emergency measures personnel.

“The other reason I’m here is to check into government funding programs which help small companies such as ours purchase capital equipment so we can remain competitive,” said Brancaccio, whose company has 16 employees. “When the profit margins are so small compared to previous years in this industry, you have to find every competitive edge and cost savings measure you can.”