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Taking the temperature of the business community

Local business leaders, city councillors, the mayor and other business stakeholders went door-to-door Wednesday
Business leaders

They may have been a few days late for trick-or-treating, but local business leaders, city councillors, the mayor and other stakeholders in the local business world were nonetheless going door-to-door Wednesday.

Instead of leftover candy from Halloween – although Coun. Larry Samson joked that’s what he was actually after – they were looking to take the temperature of the city’s business climate from those on the front lines.

The survey itself was relatively simple. Volunteers were asking businesses to compare the current state of their operations to this time last year, how many employees they have – and the number of full-time, part-time and temporary ones – what they like most about doing business here and what they think would help their business improve.

“A Business Walk is an initiative that helps local leaders get in touch with the pulse of the business community, build relationships and gather information needed to help stimulate the local economy,” read the Chamber of Commerce handout at Wednesday’s event.

The information gathered during the Walk, though confidential, will contain certain themes that can be analyzed to develop a report. That report can then be used as a tool for follow up action and to shape future initiatives by the city, the Chamber of Commerce and other participating organizations.

For example, if a high percentage of the businesses approached during the Walk say they don’t have enough information about bylaws, fees and regulations, then the Chamber and the city could consider making adjustments to their communication strategy. If businesses were having parking issues, or signage issues, or security issues, those are things the municipality can take away and look at, as well.

“It went unbelievably well,” says Colleen Evans, Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “Our goal was to visit 100 businesses, and while the final numbers aren’t in, we’re looking at somewhere around 160, I’d say. That’s going to give us a really good idea about the business climate and how people feel.”

Evans says they were very conscious to diversify their survey and collect data from businesses from all sectors and of all sizes, and the “general consensus” they heard is that “businesses told us they’re doing as well or better than at this time last year, which is really good.”

If the most recent Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) report is any indication, local government support is actually one of the strongest facets of the business environment in Campbell River.

The annual CFIB report released last month rates Campbell River at No. 55 on their list of top-121 “places to start and grow businesses in 2015,” thanks in large part to its score in “Entrepreneurial Policy.”

The overall scores and ranking in the CFIB report were calculated from scores assigned in three categories: Entrepreneurial Presence (the scale and growth of business ownership within a community), Entrepreneurial Perspective (optimism and growth plans), and Entrepreneurial Policy (local government’s actions toward business, such as taxation and regulatory practices).

Campbell River’s failing grade in both Presence (46 per cent) and Perspective (45.5 per cent), was more than offset by its Policy score (74.5 per cent), lifting it into the middle of the pack nationwide at 57.3 per cent.

The Chamber of Commerce and the city are hoping to find out first-hand how accurate those numbers are – once they analyze the results of this week’s Business Walk. The report that comes out of that information will be made available to various organizations, businesses and the public once completed, which Evans says should be this January.

Businesses not approached during the walk or would like to make additional comment should contact the Chamber at 250-287-4636 to add to the data.

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