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Talking business in Cranbrook
We are lucky to be living here.
We are the sunniest city in the province, the wilderness is right out our back doors and business is booming—well, sort of.
At the recent Chamber of Commerce business gathering, Mayor Wayne Stetski extolled the virtues of living in the city, which included an optimistic look at the city’s economy.
“The number one way our economy grows is through the retention and expansion of existing businesses—your businesses. Your mayor, your councillors, your city staff and your Chamber of Commerce are all working hard to make this city a better place,” said the Mayor, concluding his speech.
But speaking with businesses in the city, the rosy picture tends to take on a paler hue. There are complaints about taxation and the help they receive from the city in regards to expansion and getting more profit from their business.
So a look at the city’s Economic Development Strategy 2010 - 2014 seemed in order to determine what the city’s goals are and where it has gone to achieve them. Here are the objectives outlined in the “Commercial Business Attraction and Retention” section:
• Higher commercial occupancies
• Diversified retail and service options
• More active, vibrant downtown
• Retention of existing commercial enterprise mix
According to BC Stats, construction is up in the city, general merchandise stores are doing better, educational and health services are employing more people and the arts are contributing more to the economy.
As for the downtown core, it has seen an incredible change for the better, (at least in terms of looks) over the past few years.
In regards to the retention, and expansion of existing businesses, there is something in place.
In a recent talk with Mayor Wayne Stetski, he said that the city now has a tax exemption bylaw for the downtown core in regards to expansion or changing the look of the business. This bylaw would provide some tax relief for the businesses that do work to improve the building for a period of five years. This is a good program for downtown business, but not so great if you run your business somewhere other than the city’s core.
When it comes to new industrial lands, Stetski pointed out that there is no new land available, but that the city is working for an airport industrial zone and there could be some opportunities as Tembec sells off some of its property in the city.
The recent delegation from China, from the Jiangsu Wuyang Group, sparked another idea for future growth. That group is looking for lumber and CP Rail requires a large amount of volume before allowing track use. He suggested that the city could look seriously at establishing or finding a business person to build a loading facility for containers to be shipped to the coast. Of course, that same facility could be used to unload goods headed to this area. If that plan also worked in conjunction with local mills, it would definitely provide employment. The local finishing is extremely important. After all, this province does not need to export more raw logs.
But the real hard question lies in attracting businesses to the area. Stetski believes that having a more beautiful city, with a thriving arts and culture component will help in attracting these entrepreneurs and in particular he is looking to Calgary and Vancouver.
That is a tough row to hoe however. Businesses in Vancouver have access to international shipping, infrastructure and a city already steeped in culture. In regards to Calgary, the tax incentives and corporate culture could make moving to Cranbrook a hard sell.
So the struggle to improve the economy here in Cranbrook continues. Currently, the city is working on a new Economic Development Strategy. Whether or not the city’s beautification projects, or hosting delegations from China will help is yet to be seen.
It is comforting however, to know that business is on the radar for the people we elected to city council.