CITY councillors heard about everything from waiting for permits to lack of bike racks when they visited businesses last week.
Called a “business walk,” councillors and members of local social agencies fanned out around town Feb. 17 more in cars than by foot, armed with a questionnaire designed to be a barometer of how things are going for them and how the conditions for a successful business community could be improved by the city.
These answers will go into a full report to be released to the public.
Reporting on the information gathering exercise at last night’s regular council meeting, councillor Brian Downie said what he heard was generally a rosy view of the current situation.
“Depending on the business, some were saying it was slow or quite busy, but generally they were feeling optimistic about their futures,” he said.
This contrasted slightly with James Cordeiro’s view, who said it felt like most of the businesses – and he was in the industrial side of Keith Ave. for his survey – were wondering if they could sustain their labour force and even keep their operations going at all if LNG investments didn’t come through, this issue being compounded by the slowdown in the mining sector.
“They are sort of like the canary in the coal mine,” he said. “When the economic downturn comes, they feel it first.”
Councillor Lynne Christiansen said that many businesses still don’t like the fact they higher pay taxes than businesses do in other municipalities, and this despite the fact council already provided some relief last year.
“The other thing we heard a lot of was the building inspection and the timeliness of getting things done and the hoops they had to to go through,” she continued. “I heard a lot of that, and it might be something we can do something about.”
Christiansen added some potential issues weren’t raised at all, despite her expectation that they would, particualrly the perceived parking shortage and the potential hassle of the new sign bylaw rules.
Councillor Michael Prevost said that on the west part of downtown where his team did their surveys, that the businesses wanted some support in getting more bike racks.
Another issue raised was pending retirements within the business community, leaving the risk of gaps in certain fields.
“There are some who are considering retiring, but are hesitant to do so because they don’t want their services lost in the community,” said Prevost.