Business survey reveals almost one third of respondents planning to exit within five years

According to the city’s Business Survey conducted over the last few weeks 21 of the 77 business owners that responded said their business would close by 2022. — Creative Commons photo
According to the city’s Business Survey conducted over the last few weeks 21 of the 77 business owners that responded said their business would close by 2022. — Creative Commons photo

Almost one third of the Grand Forks business owners that responded to a recent city survey said they are planning to exit their business in the next five years.

According to the city’s Business Survey conducted over the last few weeks, 21 of the 77 business owners that responded said their business would close by 2022, mostly due to retirement.

City deputy manager of operations and sustainability, Cavan Gates, said most of the people planning to exit are doing so due to retirement — 18 in all.

“That should be noted for future support of business should we decide to do workshops on how to successfully transition your business,” he said.

City staff sent a brief business survey out with the business licence renewal letter this year. To date, 77 businesses have responded, said Gates, which is a high return rate.

“It’s great to see that business are so engaged,” he said.

Businesses rated the local state of business an average six out of ten.

In the survey 25 businesses reported facing major barriers to growth including the difficulty finding skilled labour and not enough local shopping or catering to a seasonal market. 

Other barriers to growth included competition with outside businesses — such as people travelling to the U.S. to shop — and high overhead costs.

Coun. Beverley Tripp wondered if gates had any ideas to overcome future barriers for growth for Grand Forks business owners.

“What kind of a sense did you get that the city could do to mitigate some of those barriers?” she asked.

It’s a tough nut to crack, Gates replied.

“There has been some work done on looking at what programming Selkirk (College) could do on the labour piece,” he said. “But part of it is the … nature of business in the tourist industry.”

Previously what has come up in brainstorming sessions is how can the shoulder season be extended for the tourism industry, said Gates, but no concrete solutions have been found.

“We are not the only community in this boat at this moment,” he said. “It is something that is hard to do, it takes a concerted, community effort.”

Gates said one of the bright spots coming in this year was the creation of the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for the Grand Forks region, which would help with the regional marketing for the tourism industry, and counter competition from outside businesses.

“Again, as a border town, it’s just another part of what happens here,” Gates said about cross-border shopping.

The Grand Forks and District Chamber of Commerce’s buy local program was a direct response to the competition from the outside.

In his report to council earlier in the day, Regional District of Kootenay-Boundary Area D director (rural Grand Forks) Roly Russell said the regional district would be moving forward with a regional hotel tax, after a very long process to get it in place.

“It would be a two to three per cent tax per night on a room and the money goes into a destination marketing organization for the Boundary,” he said.

Growing a plan for agriculture

The seeds are germinating on an agricultural plan for the Kootenay-Boundary said Russell.

The RDKB has been putting “a lot of energy” into updating its agricultural plan for the region, as well as the Food Security Plan.

Food consultants have been chosen and a first meeting with stakeholders has been scheduled for Grand Forks on May 4 — an open house that evening that will get into a “bunch of issues,” said Russell. No location has been chosen yet.

“That should be the initial piece to get that rolling and essentially to develop a steering committee and a food council,” Russell said.

The two bodies — made up of mostly stakeholders in agriculture — will help guide municipal government on food-related issues.

Making a plan for trails

Work on the trails master plan for Grand Forks and area continues, said Russell.

The people charged with the task are done collecting data and will be presenting it back soon, but the first phase is still underway to develop the data and what is happening on the trails.

“And the next phase is to go to the public with the data and host a community stakeholder consultation,” said Russell.

Animation festival to plan the future

The regional district is pursuing the Okanagan Film Commission to get them to put on an animation festival in Grand Forks this year.

“Which is really to try and introduce young people to what it would take for them to develop that (animation) in terms of a career,” said Russell.

The commission sounded supportive, he added, and there could be something in this calendar year as far as a festival goes.

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