The Fernie Chamber of Commerce has released the results from the Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) survey, which was conducted between December 2015 and May 2016. The survey analyzed the results from 76 participating businesses to capture a view of the business landscape in Fernie.
The Rural Development Institute (RDI) completed the data analysis and wrote a corresponding report over the summer. The results were released last week at a Chamber function, hosted on Sept. 15 at Park Place Lodge. The function featured a presentation on the survey results as well as a trade show from local vendors after the presentations.
The Chamber of Commerce executive director, Patty Vadnais, said the survey will help the Chamber plan programs and projects for future business development.
“We felt it important to have some empirical data on the economic environment in Fernie. Also, this survey allows us to compare our economy to others in the region. The information from the survey can guide programming and projects for Fernie Chamber of Commerce and the City of Fernie,” Vadnais told The Free Press. “The Chamber is using the results to create programming, including educational courses, that business owners identified they want.”
The RDI provided a 49-page report summarizing their findings from the survey. The survey spanned seven topics, including local workforce, government services and facilities and equipment. The report identified a number of areas that have the greatest potential to “improve the business climate,” the first of which was recruitment and retention in the workforce.
According to the report, 50 per cent of the respondents cited the lack of skilled staff was a barrier to expanding their business.
“Actions that could prove helpful include: improved job advertising, assistance with the temporary foreign worker program, and supporting affordable housing,” read the report.
Of the 75 respondents, 38 per cent said they had experienced some form of recruitment issues, while 14 per cent said they had retention challenges.
After the Chamber presented its findings and the BRE report, Don Schaffer, interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the City of Fernie, gave a 15-minute presentation in regards to working with local government to improve the business landscape in an area.
“The survey noted businesses need space to expand, and Mr. Schaffer shared at the result presentation there are ways municipalities can encourage land development,” said Vadnais. “We will also use it to guide our advocacy efforts when working with the City.”
According to Vadnais, the Chamber will conduct a similar survey in future years, including another BRE survey in approximately four years.
“We will look to complete a Business Walk annually for the next couple of years and then a complete BRE project three or four years from now,” she said. “A Business Walk, usually completed in a day or two, is another way for the Chamber and local leaders to connect face-to-face with business owners and get the pulse of the business community.”
The complete survey report, written by RDI can be found on the Chamber’s website at Ferniechamber.com