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Updated: 9th February 2019 23:36

Economic uncertainty drives some Calgarians to eye franchise ownership at expo

Calgarians looking for an alternative to more traditional methods of employment took stock of one option this weekend at the Franchise Canada Show.

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'I think people are exploring different options,' says one representative

Ross Winter is the director of franchise development for MTY Group. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Calgarians looking for an alternative to more traditional methods of employment took stock of one option this weekend at the Franchise Canada Show.

"You know the economy is driving people in different ways right now and it has been for, you know, for a little while with the oil and gas crisis," said Ross Winter, director of franchise development for MTY Group, which represents businesses like Thai Express, Mucho Burrito and Jugo Juice. 

"I think people are exploring different options. I'm not saying there's desperation but there's just people looking for different things to do."

The show is hosted by the Canadian Franchise Association, a not-for-profit that represents more than 700 corporations and 40,000 franchise owners.

Franchises contribute more than $96 billion each year to Canada's economy, according to the association, and provide jobs to more than 1.8 million people. And it's not all fast food — 60 per cent of franchises are in non-food sectors including residential services, renovation companies or retail chains.

Fernando Cerda and his wife Lilliana still aren't sure what kind of business they'd like to open, but they're interested in the concept of owning a franchise.

Fernando and Lilliana Cerda are looking to open a franchise of some sort — they just haven't picked an industry yet. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Fernando is a geophysicist who has worked all around the world. He came to Canada in 2014 and got his MBA at the University of Calgary, but says he still is looking for stable work in the city.

"It's not the perfect time to go and look for a job," he said.

"It's been hard to find a job and trying to trying to do something with my savings … I think this is a good opportunity to do something with with my investment."

The association's website says 3.5 per cent of Alberta's GDP comes from franchises, and nine per cent of Alberta's workforce is connected to franchises. 

Alberta's unemployment rate was 6.8 per cent in January 2019, according to Statistics Canada, slightly down from seven per cent in January 2018.

Winter says the average investment is a few hundred thousand dollars, with some requiring half-a-million or more, depending on the size of the building, the brand and how much equipment is involved. But, there's no guaranteed return on investment — it's a lot of hard work, he added.

"I think it's a dream of most people out there to, you know, to operate and actually have their own business that they can turn the keys or open the doors every morning and know that it's theirs," he said.

The expo continues through Sunday at Stampede Park, before heading to Edmonton next weekend.

With files from Lucie Edwardson

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