New businesses are always welcome, but the local economic development office has concluded the old adage about a “bird in hand” also applies to creating jobs and growth.
Lower Columbia Initiatives plans to survey every business in Greater Trail that is willing to find out more about their needs and aspirations.
“The survey is really just one step of an entire process,” said LCI manager Sandy Santori. “This isn’t something that has a start point and end point. It is a customer service program that is about building relationships with local businesses.”
The project stems from research indicating that 80 per cent of new jobs being created in North America are with established businesses rather than new ones.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t pursue new opportunities, but the days of chasing smoke stacks are over. It is a very costly and in most cases doesn’t result in any new jobs.”
He noted that recycling is one local economic “cluster” that does have potential for additional businesses, particularly as Teck expands its electronic materials reprocessing capacity.
“That is going to create some jobs and opportunities for other businesses.”
As much as possible, the survey will be conducted in person starting in December. It will collect data on what is going on in the region, but more importantly will be the start of a partnership with interested businesses, Santori said.
“The program is going to involve regular follow up with every business in the community. We want to build relationships and get a clear understanding of what they do and what their potential is.
“We also hope to be able to help businesses that are in trouble rather than finding out about it when their doors close.”
The information collected will also build a fuller profile of the range of goods and services offered by the more than 1,000 businesses of all sizes in Greater Trail, so the economic development office can advise newcomers of where the opportunities are.
The program is also about marketing the LCI, which is a not-for-profit corporation set up two years ago to deliver services previously provided in-house by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary with funding from municipalities and rural areas. The same local government partners are funding and control the new initiative.
“This sends a message that we care and are knowledgeable about businesses in the Lower Columbia,” Santori said.
The other major project the LCI is working on is a feasibility study for a Columbia River Heritage Centre. The concept is for a downtown complex that would house interpretive centres about the river and Teck, a new city museum, and Chamber of Commerce office and visitors’ centre.
More information on the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation is available on the group’s website (lcic.ca).