The Government of Canada helps grassroots communities put business ideas into action

News release

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency invests more than $4.2 million to spark rural innovation across Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia, July 20, 2020 – Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)

Atlantic Canada’s Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) help small and medium-sized businesses in grassroots communities cultivate big success. This local support can help create entirely new industries and give existing industries a new lease on life by making them more productive and efficient. Good ideas happen everywhere.

Federal government supports strong rural economies

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and Member of Parliament for South Shore – St. Margarets, announces on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, more than $4.2 million in federal investments to strengthen business services for people in rural communities across Nova Scotia.

The Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), is contributing $958,865 to the Nova Scotia Association of CBDCs to deliver the province-wide Spark Innovation Challenge over the next two years. The Spark Innovation Challenge offers early-stage seed financing for new technology start-ups in rural areas of Nova Scotia. The program provides mentorship, resources and financing to winning businesses and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship in locations outside of urban centres. The Challenge is designed to lead to new job opportunities and sustainable economic growth in rural communities.

ACOA is also providing nearly $3.3 million to Nova Scotia’s network of Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) to cover operating costs related to the delivery of the Community Futures Program, which provides small business loans, tools, training and events for people who want to start, expand, franchise or sell a business.

Today’s investments further demonstrates the Government of Canada’s commitment to supporting Atlantic businesses through this difficult time. ACOA continues to work with partners such as Atlantic Canada’s CBDCs to grow vibrant rural communities.


“The strength of Atlantic Canada’s CBDCs is in their connection to the communities in which they operate. These grassroots business organizations understand the needs of their communities. From Yarmouth to Sydney Mines, they are working to give entrepreneurs the support they need to turn ideas into action. Our message to them is clear: we are working with you to make sure we create good local jobs and that our economy bounces back stronger than ever.”

-The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for ACOA

“Innovative, brilliant ideas occur in every corner of our country, and we need to invest in those efforts now more than ever. That's why our government is supporting organizations that have strong local ties, and know where the potential for growth lies. The Atlantic CBDC's are doing incredible work across the region to help businesses and organizations grow to new levels of success. Strategic efforts like this, that take into account the unique regional needs of a business, are exactly what is going to help our economy to bounce back here in Nova Scotia and across Canada.”

- The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and Member of Parliament for South Shore – St. Margarets

“This investment from ACOA will help good ideas get noticed and give entrepreneurs the support they need to turn their ideas into reality. With the help of partners like Atlantic Canada’s CBDCs, we are bolstering the unique strengths of rural communities and helping local businesses thrive.”

- René Arseneault, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (ACOA and Official Languages)

“Innovation better positions businesses to develop and grow.  The funding from ACOA for SPARK will enable us to encourage new ideas in rural communities. The role these small businesses play in our community is often underestimated but the truth is there’s nothing small about the impact they have on our economy. They are rooted in the landscape and give back vitality and sustenance. CBDCs have been assisting businesses for the past 35 years. Governed by local volunteers sensitive to the needs of their communities, we provide patient, flexible financing that has never been more important.”

- Erinn Smith, Executive Director, Nova Scotia Association of Community Business Development Corporations

“Being fortunate enough to be selected as a Spark contestant isn’t just about winning the money; it’s about winning the opportunity to develop your research, preparation and presentation skills to speak passionately and constructively about your business idea.  These skills are absolutely critical as we continue our entrepreneurial journey to success.”

- James MacDonald, Owner & CEO, GreenOil Solutions, 2019 Spark Winner, CBDC Client

Quick facts

  • CBDCs are not-for-profit community-based organizations run by volunteers from the local business community who believe in improving the economic viability of their communities.

  • Spark began in Cape Breton six years ago to identify promising early-stage startups. Now province-wide, winners receive up to $50,000 in non-repayable funding and guidance from seasoned business professionals. 

  • The funding for the Spark Innovation Challenge is being provided through the Regional Innovation Ecosystems stream of the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) program. 

  • ACOA is investing nearly $3.3 million through the Community Futures Program to support 12 projects with the Nova Scotia network of CBDCs.

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Alexander Cohen
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Chris Brooks
Director, Communications
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Erinn Smith
Executive Director
Nova Scotia Association of CBDCs

James MacDonald
Owner & CEO
GreenOil Solutions

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