Proposed regional licensing up for debate

A proposal for a regional business licence could cut $10,000 annually out of the city’s revenue stream

A proposal for a regional business licence could cut $10,000 annually out of the city’s revenue stream, according to City of Trail staff estimate.

City corporate administrator Michelle McIsaac told council at a recent meeting that implementing a proposed regional business licence program— stretching from Nelson to Trail and over to Grand Forks—could reduce revenue in Greater Trail’s own regional business licence program.

The program, now administered by the City of Trail, brings about $20,000 into the city’s coffers through the sale of business licences.

“We already receive the greater share of revenue from regional licence sales,” she said. “I estimate we could potentially lose that licence revenue each year if that model were to change.”

Mcisaac did not believe the regional model they had in place could sustain an expansion to the reaches of the West Kootenay and the Boundary.

But the model could also provide the city with more income, said city councillor Sean Mackinlay. In areas where the regional licence has been enacted, there has been an increase in sales of those licences, and an increase in fees.

He pointed to a $200,000 increase in revenue at the City of Kelowna after they implemented a regional licence, with $80,000 coming from the city itself.

“So there may be some losses or there may be some gains,” he said. “If it is determined to be a loss that is some thing we won’t go further with.”

It was passed in the meeting that city staff would contact the B.C. Chamber of Commerce to begin investigation as to the feasibility of creating such a program.

The proposed regional licence would cover business people who work in more than one community to earn their living, including Rossland, Trail, Nelson, Castelgar and Grand Forks.

Under the licence, a business owner would only need to purchase one business licence in the community of choice, but it would apply to all others.

This move would eliminate the need for business owners, like construction contractors, to buy separate licences in each community they may find work in.

It was intended to encourage business in the region, and allow those people who may operate under the table and only purchase one licence to come above board.

But has there been a demonstrated demand from the business community for this kind of service, asked councillor Kevin Jolly.

“It seemed like in other areas once people realized they could get this, they did not want to fly under the radar anymore, they wanted to make sure they had a fully licenced and insured business,” said Mackinlay. “So, creating this opportunity can create the demand.”

Currently, there are only five such regional licences operating in the entire province. The city study will determine if there is actually a cost benefit analysis that can be made for the move.

Greater Trail has had a regional business licence in place since the mid 1980s, available for a higher price than a single municipal one, for those who wished to operate from Rossland to Fruitvale, and everywhere in between.

Mackinlay was part of a meeting with the executive directors of the local chambers of commerce and the B.C Chamber of Commerce on the topic. Since the five chambers were all within less than one hour from each other, the provincial chamber urged the region’s municipalities to investigate a regional licence.

“I think that, with all of the construction that is going on in the region, and the fact that if you are a specific kind of tradesperson, in order to get that bigger market you need to have the entire population of the region supporting you,” he said.

“We don’t want to be a burden on business. We want to get as much going as we can around here.”