SME Owners Feel the Effects of the Financial Crisis but Remain Optimistic About the Future



    Léger Marketing Survey for the Solidarity Fund QFL

    MONTREAL, Oct. 29 /CNW Telbec/ - Despite the current economic turmoil,
SME owners are still optimistic about medium-term prospects for their
companies. However, they are worried about other major issues, notably, the
ability to recruit and retain qualified workers as well as increased operating
costs. These findings were revealed today by Léger Marketing CEO Jean-Marc
Léger at a seminar organized jointly by the Solidarity Fund QFL (the "Fund")
and HEC Montréal. More than 150 business professionals and SME owners turned
up for the event, one of several activities planned around the labour fund's
25th anniversary.
    Interested in identifying the concerns of SME owners, the Fund asked
Léger Marketing to research the matter. Accordingly, in September, the firm
conducted a survey on the topic, but in light of the financial crisis that
erupted shortly after, polled the 200 business owners again in October to find
out if perceptions had changed.
    According to Mr. Léger, "The financial crisis has shaken the confidence
of Québec SME owners, especially in October. In fact, the percentage of those
who expressed concern doubled in just one month, from 15% in September to 35%
in October. Moreover, the proportion of SMEs predicting tough times ahead
increased five-fold between the two months, from 6% in September to 32% in
October. Yet while the outlook may have darkened for the next three years,
investments will continue to flow into expansion, modernization and
acquisitions. Although pessimism has increased in the last few weeks as a
result of the financial crisis, these business owners remain optimistic about
the long term prospects. In fact, they are more worried about the inability to
recruit and retain qualified workers (61%) and rising operating costs (49%),
the two biggest threats to SME growth in the next three years."
    "It's reassuring to see how resilient our business leaders are, how
they're able to adapt to changing conditions, and how they remain
fundamentally optimistic. The results of this survey are encouraging because
we at the Fund are realistic about the repercussions of this upheaval but at
the same time, we are also optimistic about the opportunities it can bring to
business owners," said the Fund's chief executive, Yvon Bolduc.
    "We have worked with our partners and especially exporters to help them
adjust to our stronger dollar. They've had to optimize their operations, seek
out new markets and maximize productivity. We're beside them every step of the
way and encourage them to remain vigilant and prudent and to carefully manage
their balance sheet. But we also encourage them to seize opportunities and to
take advantage of the Fund's financial soundness and expertise. The Fund not
only invests patient capital that complements bank financing but human capital
as well, for instance, by serving on the board of directors of its partner
companies or by delivering economic training to their workers. The Fund looks
to play an active role at all stages of a company's development. We are
financially solid and are in for the long term. In fact, besides our regular
investments, estimated at $600 million this fiscal year, we have set aside a
special $40 million budget for partner companies experiencing cash flow
problems as a result of these tough economic times," concluded Mr. Bolduc.
    For the complete results of the survey, please contact the undersigned.

    About the Solidarity Fund QFL

    With net assets of $7.3 billion as at May 31, 2008, the Solidarity Fund
QFL is a development capital company that through its RRSP channels the
savings of Quebecers into investments in all sectors of the economy to help
create and maintain jobs and to further Québec's economic growth. The Fund is
a partner, either directly or through its network members, in 1,881 companies.
It currently has more than 575,000 shareholders and has helped, on its own or
with other financial partners, to create, maintain and protect over 126,000
jobs. For more information, visit www.fondsftq.com.




For further information:

For further information: Note: The telephone number provided below is
for the exclusive use of journalists and other media representatives.; Josée
Lagacé, Senior Advisor, Press Relations and Communications, Fonds de
solidarité FTQ, (514) 850-4835, Cell.: (514) 707-5180, jlagace@fondsftq.com


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