Guts!

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

This title, “Guts!”, reminds me of the military  . . . “mud and guts”, “blood and guts”, all the hardships and courage of our soldiers – which we will be honouring November 11. But this column is not about Remembrance Day; it’s about a less dramatic “guts”, a courage of great importance for our society, but one rarely honoured.
This column is about honouring the Pontiac’s beleaguered small-business community, fighting on battlefields most of us never see, but which can shape our lives as much as any foreign war. Think about the effect of the closing of Pontiac’s
once-properous forestry industry – the Portage mill making photo paper, the shingle and mulch mill, the lumber mills and chippers in Davidson and elsewhere. By 2008 or so, we suddenly found ourselves with an amputated, limping economy. That’s a heavy burden for any community, as heavy
as military devastation. Pontiac has been economically devastated. It wasn’t an act of nature; it was a series of decisions, all deliberate. So we shouldn’t be nonchalant about what’s happening with local small businesses (and shouldn’t we support them by shopping at home?). 
This was one purpose of the Pontiac Chamber of Commerce’s Business Awards evening, October 21. Ten remarkable businesses and entrepreneurs were honoured with First Place kudos, while another dozen-plus were praised in running for these honours.
Among the many mini-speeches of the evening – largely thank-you’s for the recognition of the awards – there were a few genuine gems. 
In particular, Todd Hoffman’s remarks were short, to the point, and powerful. Mr Hoffman, of Campbell’s Bay Ciment, formerly Chamber president, presented very thoughtful remarks on the importance of small business – “the generators of wealth”, he called them – and on the qualities required of successful businesspeople – risk-taking and optimism – “a special breed” in his words. These are not clichés!  Especially for all the women and men who have dedicated their lives to small, privately-owned businesses which keep the Pontiac’s economy alive (barely).
Mr Hoffman used the expression, “guts”, summing up what the business world demands of its members. This is a very specific, hey, scientific term: “guts”. It means investing a family’s life’s savings on a big gamble which requires twelve-hour days, with no assurance of success, and certainly no guaranteed pensions, paid vacations, sick days – or even salary! Going without pay, sometimes for months, is not new to small entrepreneurs. 
The collateral “damage” here is not damage at all; it’s positive – it’s
our life-line. Collateral benefits of risk-taking are jobs for fellow citizens, donations to community events and groups, services and goods provided nearby and with a service-guarantee that can only come from your neighbour.
Try taking your tablet back to the big-box store for repairs! Local businesses may not be as dead-cheap as big-box stores, but the service and guarantees are incomparable.
The current Chamber president, Me Mireille Alary, wrapped up and
re-enforced our awareness of the importance of small businesses for the economy and the social life of Pontiac: “What a great community we have here in the Pontiac!” she concluded.  Again, this is reality, no clichés here. Without our local businesspeople, there would be no functioning Pontiac at all.
Other speakers amplified this theme: MRC-Pontiac Warden Raymond Durocher, Denis Larivière, DG of Promutuel, Jane Toller of Pontiac Tourism, Trevor Fraser of Pontiac Ice, Gail Sullivan of Emploi Québec, Denise Morrissette, Winston Sunstrum of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes, Anne Taylor of Pontiac Printshop, and several others. Pontiac’s Orators-of-a-Few Words! Then everyone raised a toast – and prepared for tomorrow, serving the Pontiac – serving you and me.