CFIB ranks Cobourg for Entrepreneurs

Cobourg’s size is at the lower end of the 125 cities surveyed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) but it’s doing better than many other cities – even better than the City of Toronto and about the same as Belleville.  CFIB says that local governments “control only some of the levers that make cities work. How well these levers are used, however, can make a tremendous difference to local businesses and residents”.  But they concede that “while local governments can influence local economic activity, they can’t usually make it happen directly. For that, they need local entrepreneurs to carry the ball — those who risk their own capital, time and effort”.  But when municipal governments do it right, “residents and businesses are more likely to make investments”.

CFIBTo understand the details, it’s best to read the full report from CFIB – see the link below.

Summary of CFIB Report

The report looked at 125 Canadian cities with populations of roughly 20,000 or more – so Cobourg just scraped in.  Thirteen factors were given scores then weighted and combined into three categories:

  • Presence is a representation of the scale and growth of business ownership – Cobourg scored 16.6 out of 33.3 – there were 29 other cities with this score or higher.
  • Perspective covers indicators associated with optimism and growth plans. Cobourg Scored 15.1 out of 33.3  – there were 67 other cities with this score of higher.
  • Policy represents indicators associated with the actions local governments take with respect to business taxation and regulation. Cobourg Scored 24.5 out of 33.3 –  there were 54 other cities with this score of higher.

These were then combined into an overall score and Cobourg was ranked 51 out of 125 cities.  For comparison, Belleville was ranked at 48, Kingston at 108, Peterborough at 63, Toronto at 68 and Toronto periphery at 33.

Cobourg Scores – 2018


  Business establmt growth Business establmt per capita Info. culture sector Self-empl % Self employed aged 15-34
  % change per 100 residents % of establ. % of empl. % of total self-empl.
Cobourg -4.4% 3.5 2.0% 12.1% 8.4%
  • Business establishment growth – per cent change in classified business establishments with employees between June 2017 and June 2018
  • Business establishments per capita – only 34 cities had more.
  • Information and culture sector –  the relative presence of businesses in the information and cultural sector, which includes media and publishing—the theory being that higher numbers of information and cultural business establishments relative to the total suggests a greater local appetite for the exchange of information – only 9 cities had a higher rank than Cobourg’s score of 2.0
  • Self-employed %  – proportion of individuals that are self-employed
  • Self employed aged 15-34 – The presence of larger numbers of younger business owners can suggest that the opportunities and incentives to launch are accelerated, signalling a more robust start-up culture.  Cobourg’s score of 8.4% was the lowest of the 125 cities.


  Building permits Median earnings Business Barometer State of business Full-time hiring
  % of establ. $ of Incorp, employers Index % good % yes
Cobourg 4.7% $51,995 56.8 50.0% 15.8%
  • Building permits – The greater number of building permits per business, the stronger the municipality is at encouraging business investment.  There were 88 cities with a higher score than Cobourg’s score of 4.7%
  • Median earnings – an indicator of the relative health, well-being and sustainability.
  • Business Barometer –  An index of expected future business performance – there were 87 cities with a higher score than Cobourg’s score of 56.8
  • State of business – percentage of business owners in a ‘good’ state of business – there were only 43 cities with a higher score than Cobourg’s score of 50%
  • Full-time hiring – Future full-time hiring expectations


  Municipal property tax Education property tax BizPaL
  Comm./ Res. ratio Comm./ Res. ratio 1=yes
Cobourg 1.52 .88 1
  • Municipal property tax – The tax ratio is the commercial tax rate divided by the residential tax rate within the community. A low ratio indicates a more equitable distribution of municipal taxation among ratepayers. Only 11 cities had a lower ratio than Cobourg’s.  This is not a measure of taxes paid but just relative to residential.
  • Education property tax – measures relative load among ratepayers, commercial versus residential.
  • BizPaL is an online source of information for permits and licences that may be required to start and grow a business. With the increased usage of BizPaL, businesses have a higher likelihood of succeeding if given the right information.

Overall a good and fair assessment.  As usual, the devil is in the details but the Town appears to live up to its reputation as business friendly.  However, there are a couple of obvious problems:

  1. Not enough young people are setting up businesses here;
  2. The weak Business Barometer indicates too many entrepreneurs are not confident about their future.

CFIB does not offer ideas to help individual communities other than pointing to their weak points.  The Press release that they issued was mostly about top (and big) cities but Cobourg was also included in the detailed listings.


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manfred s
4 years ago

first and foremost, let’s understand that economic activity is generated by the opportunity to earn income, and not much else. The prevailing conditions define those opportunities. Influencing those conditions is what governments do to stimulate economic activity. Sometimes that involves injections of hard cash but indirect manipulations are more effective and longer lasting. Cultural considerations are part of those indirect influencers also, as are the social and economic environments that are established by income levels and age-based cohorts. Generally speaking, business seeks existing and emerging opportunities rather than spend resources to create them. All these givens come together to determine the economic viability of any specific area, much like it does here in Cobourg. We can try to ‘attract’ specific businesses with promotions and campaigns but it all comes down to the opportunity for any type of business to earn sufficient income to support the necessary investments to do so in a sustainable manner. Looking at the existing business landscape tells us exactly what Business thinks of those current opportunities here. That’s where we’ll find the clues to what is needed to stimulate our local and regional economies, not artificially designed and generated ‘wish-list’ initiatives aimed at drawing underrepresented business types that could not flourish in our existing economic landscape. We would do well to realize that what we ‘are’ determines what we will be, until we modify what we ‘are’. Looking around, we see what we are and that’s where we have to focus of we are to change our economic fortunes. Everything else is wasted effort.

Wally Keeler
4 years ago

Creative Barrie is a wonderful site for its arts and culture industry. One can feel the vibrancy of its community., There is a Facebook page. “… The Creative Economy department develops, promotes and implements innovative events, programs and initiatives while fostering creatives as economic drivers for the City.” Of course, Barrie is 15 years younger.

Median age of Barrie: 38.5
Median age of Prov.: 41.3
Median age of Cobourg: 53.5

Reply to  Wally Keeler
4 years ago

Creative Economy Department?
Holy Cow!
For real?
With a Director and Staff?
I know all kinds of folks in Cobourg who would be shocked, SHOCKED! and appalled at something like that.

Bob Robertson
4 years ago

Since Cobourg is really just a TOWN and not a City – how does it rate in relation to other towns with a similar population base?

Miriam Mutton
4 years ago

I would be interested to hear from a young local entrepreneur what they think of the report. And, what attracted them to locate to Cobourg.

This study needs a peer review. Are the indicators positioned among other priorities of healthy communities today? Number of building permits as a measure of success for business? What does this mean? New buildings on green field development or a combination of new builds and fixing existing buildings and neighbourhoods including downtowns? Suburban areas have better tax ratios than city cores? Until all those new big roads and public infrastructure needs fixing.
And, the words ‘sustainable’ or ‘resilience’ do not appear in the report, that I could find. Cobourg growth has been slow and steady even with loss of some large employers, a balance adjusted as the community progresses. Note recent Council priority to address affordable housing. Young entrepreneurs are here and more are coming. They are busy working, sometimes at jobs that are not even on this continent thanks to technology, and raising families. But many are also of a generation where there is no job security, multiple careers over the course of a working life is expected and precarious employment is normal. And how do the report figures take into account Cobourg has a high ratio of retirees at present, many who volunteer to enrich the community?

The report provides valuable insight but does need to be weighed in context other factors, what else people including entrepreneurs and other job creators are looking for in a community.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
4 years ago

Points well made!
Let’s hope Council promotes new builds or the creation of apartments in existing large homes in established neighborhoods.
Nearly two-thirds of Ontario residents are living in homes too big for their needs, leaving 5 million bedrooms empty.
Cobourg’s ‘overhoused’ Seniors should have a choice between accessible rentals downtown and retirement residences.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
4 years ago

Young entrepreneurs are here and more are coming. They are busy working, sometimes at jobs that are not even on this continent thanks to technology, and raising families

My son has been self-employed for the past 10 years. His business is in cyberspace, so he can work from anywhere on the planet and does. His peers are similarly employed. Live and work in Cobourg? “it’s too boring except for summer.” So what would attract young people to live and work in Cobourg? What could entice them to move here? Action? Fun? Frolic? More retirees volunteering free labour for pet projects? Cobourg needs more creativity, innovation, inventiveness, for young people, to keep what remains, to attract other young people, and the phrase “retirement community” repulses young people with ambitions.

Daniel Ruffolo
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
4 years ago

I was one of those young entrepreneurs, albeit at the old end of the range (I opened my business at age 30) and the report seems pretty accurate to me. I chose Cobourg because my family is from Cobourg, not from any rosy economic outlook. I ran the numbers, and estimated my catchment and it looked sustainable, if not hugely profitable, but I definitely could have picked better locations from a purely business perspective.

One of the biggest obstacles for 15-34 self-employed people is that most of the businesses we want to run are also -for- people aged 15-34 and we’re very underrepresented in Cobourg.

Part of the problem is that my generation is a generation of underemployed, underpaid renters, and Cobourg is a town with a massive affordable rentals deficit. If there were affordable places to live for recent university grads, and early career adults still crushed under massive student debt, we/they’d be a lot more likely to come live and work and run businesses here.

Another 24-unit apartment complex is turning into Condos as we speak, and so the problems keep on rolling for actually bringing young people to this town.

Walter L. Luedtke
4 years ago

The low percentage of building permits does not bode well for Cobourg’s future, although there seems to be a commitment to boosting housing among some members of Council.
Speedy approvals are an important factor in bringing new housing supply to market faster.
While there are changes that can be made locally by Council to cut red tape and by private housing developers to improve their applications, the Province should also examine its own imposed process and approval requirements.
Cobourg can provide certainty for housing developers by ensuring that zoning by-laws are reflective of our Official Plan.
NIMBYISM has contributed to opposition of housing developments with the result of causing more delays for new builds. This should change now that the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is replaced with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).
It serves now as an adjudicative tribunal that hears cases in relation to a range of municipal planning, financial, and land matters.
Appeals are permissible only in cases where decisions do not conform to the Official Plan or the Provincial Policy Statement. Source: AMO

Wally Keeler
4 years ago

Self employed aged 15-34 – The presence of larger numbers of younger business owners can suggest that the opportunities and incentives to launch are accelerated, signalling a more robust start-up culture. Cobourg’s score of 8.4% was the lowest of the 125 cities.

Cobourg is a dense retirement centre. Cobourg also has a low creativity score province-wide. Is it any wonder that the young self-employed aged 15/34 go anywhere else.

When a town has such dismal scores concerning two vibrant resources, young entrepreneurs and creatives, it is doomed to empty stores, except for the Designer’s Incontinence Services, Wally Walker Sales & Services, Cane Wraps R Us and such like.

Old Sailor
4 years ago

Do our Cobourg DBIA and Northumberland Central Chamber of Commerce (NCCC) actively engage with town management and Council on improving the business environment?

The NCCC mission is “To facilitate an environment conducive to creating a successful business community for Northumberland Central by protecting the interests of local businesses, enhancing the commercial climate of the region and encouraging continued growth and expansion.”.

manfred s
Reply to  Old Sailor
4 years ago

these two organizations have very different purposes and mandates, Old Sailor. The DBIA is a “compulsory membership” org. which is funded by mandatory fees imposed on all commercial properties that fall within its boundaries. Their mandate has three components, namely Promotion of the Downtown, Beautification of the commercial district and Maintenance of the public spaces in the Downtown. That’s it. No promotion of individual businesses, no infrastructural spending, no political activism nor biases. Much like a condo Board, its mandate is to keep the “commons area” of the Downtown as an attractive presence that appeals to visitors, and especially consumers. While members are free to act independently, from an “organization” standpoint, there is little opportunity in the way of interacting with the town administration in political matters as you seem to be suggesting. I think your perception of the DBIA’s purpose is a widely held one, BUT it appears to be a wrong one. Now, as far as the Chamber goes, that’s a whole different ball o wax.