The results of a City of Penticton survey, a year in the making, paint a rosy picture of doing business in the city.
The results from the Business Climate Survey says Penticton is experiencing a period of “very strong growth.”
Over half of the businesses surveyed reported have plans to expand in the next 12 months, and only seven per cent foresee any downsizing at their Penticton facilities. Most, 96 per cent, checked off positive to very positive projected change in sales over the next year.
Many of the findings are issues already the topic of conversations throughout the community, like the lack of affordable housing making it hard to draw in skilled labourers, the seasonal nature of Penticton’s economy and, for businesses in the downtown, a need for a greater RCMP presence.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said the city is working with RCMP superintendent Ted De Jager to address the concerns, which he said also come from the Downtown Business Association, which made a presentation to council saying they would like to see an increased RCMP presence and some changes to improve both the reality and perception of safety downtown.
“It’s something that we’re acknowledging needs to be addressed and I think the superintendent has some good plans to deal with it,” said Jakubeit. “I know in early April he’s got a town hall meeting planned where he wants to unveil parts of his plan.
“The ball is moving forward. It maybe doesn’t move as fast as some people would like it but we’re collectively trying to address the concerns.”
Jakubeit said the survey is valuable, even with some of the key findings being already known concerns — the report gives those discussions a firmer basis.
“That’s sort of our starting point to formally address and build some tactics around improving and pathways on the things that we are doing well or try and expand on those things,” said Jakubeit.
“I think this is a good step forward and again it validates what people are thinking as a common theme amongst the business community, which is a good starting point to build a plan from.”
Many of the businesses had different ideas about what the major drivers of Penticton’s economy, but they tended to agree on one thing.
“There were consistent opinions that people incorrectly assume tourism is driving the economy, when in fact they feel it is likely not the major economic contributor. An economic impact study could prove to be useful information for future economic planning,” concludes the report.
The report also notes frustration with permitting and licensing processes at city hall and suggests the city should take a more active role in supporting entrepreneurship and new businesses.
The survey got started in early 2017 with the goal of gathering input from a cross-section of 100 area businesses, focusing on business retention and expansion. In all, the economic development team collected 90 online surveys, along with 100 in-person interviews.
Along with trying to draw new businesses to Penticton, the city has also been working on keeping and helping existing businesses in the community grow.
“Existing businesses are often overlooked when the general public thinks of economic development, yet they account for the vast majority of new job creation in a region,” reads the introduction to the survey report.
The stated goal of the program is to identify key actions that will enable local business to prosper, keeping existing jobs and creating new ones.
“There is a bit of a shift in and certainly a bit more positive energy. I think it relates to things going well or relatively well for people and they’re optimistic about the future. Those are those are good things for the business community and things to be proud of right now,” said Jakubeit.
The full report of the business climate survey can be viewed online at shapeyourcitypenticton.ca.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News