Bread earner Alvin Ginther

Bread earner Alvin Ginther

Immigration & Investment: Immigration backlog delays retirement

NANAIMO – Bakery owner Al Ginther hopes to sell his business through the B.C. Provincial Nominee Program.

Al Ginther peers solemnly from flour-dusted glasses in an office that looks out at his production bakery, a place he hopes to sell through British Columbia’s Provincial Nominee Program.

An angry man once asked why he’s “selling out” to the Chinese.

“I said, well listen, you bring me a Canadian who, number 1, has the money and, number 2, wants to work, and I’ll sell it to him without a doubt. Blink my eye and it’s gone.”

Trouble is, for the past 10 years no one’s wanted it.

It’s immigrant-hopefuls from China who could give the long-time baker the retirement he’s been longing for.

Foreign entrepreneurs have been buying businesses in the Harbour City or trying to, through the B.C. Provincial Nominee Program. The initiative is aimed at encouraging investment and economic growth while putting entrepreneurs on the fast track to permanent residency and it’s seen increasing uptake.

In 2010, the province reported 135 business immigration applications, which shot up to 746 in 2012 and 1,085 last year. Within those four years, investment by entrepreneur immigrants reached $472 million with 1,449 jobs created in B.C.

In Nanaimo, there’s been 134 applications for businesses since 2003-04, with 26 nominated for residency. Sixty-five applications are awaiting a nomination decision.

It’s estimated to take as long as three years for the province to review PNP applications, according to a B.C. government website. The government has been faced with an “unprecedented” increase in applications, which the ministry responsible for labour blames on the cancellation of the federal immigrant investor program and overhaul of the temporary foreign worker program.

Peter McGee, economic development coordinator with Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, said for awhile it seemed like the golden goose of business acquisition, with any business owner interested in selling seeing it as a way out.

“It just turned out not to be the lottery ticket that a lot of people thought it was and that’s sort of a good thing because it puts the emphasis now onto proper succession planning,” he said.

The problem was, with lag time on applications, some business people would think they’d successfully sold their business only to find out the new owner’s application was denied.

ives on hold without knowing the success rate, said Angela Fang, owner of the immigration and investing consulting firm Integrity Impact Management Group.

She recalls when it took nine days for one prospective business person to get an interview for a work permit. With more immigration and investment consultants, applications and not enough processors, wait times shot up to 12 to 16 months. Now it’s up to 36 to 39 months for paperwork filed between June 2012 and May 2013.

“It’s become a little bit chaos since last year to now,” said Fang, although she notes the success of some to acquire new businesses like Sushi Eh and Jumping Jiminy’s.

Ginther has been waiting on government since 2013.

With 27 years operating Buns Master Bakery on Bowen Road, he’s ready for retirement. He wants to garden and travel and crack open a book, something he hasn’t done since his wife died of cancer more than two years ago. He has buyers ready to purchase and guarantee his employees jobs for the next year, but he has no idea where the application is in the government’s pile. He wonders how long he should wait.

“You are really in a holding pattern,” he said. “That’s kind of disheartening because the government sets up a nice program but then from what I can gather is, they don’t fund it properly to process it.”

For more stories in this series:

Nanaimo needs to work proactively to attract investment.

Cultural investment

New business association pitched to help Chinese investors

Vandalism unusual in Canada

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