Report highlights challenges and successes of Revelstoke economy

Business Retention & Expansion report showcases challenges and struggles of Revelstoke businesses.

Jonathan Buttle presents the results of the Business Retention & Expansion report at a Chamber of Commerce lunch last week.

Jonathan Buttle presents the results of the Business Retention & Expansion report at a Chamber of Commerce lunch last week.

Almost half of Revelstoke businesses are planning to expand in the next five years, according to a new study published by the Columbia Basin’s Rural Development Institute.

“That’s something that should make you very excited,” said Jonathan Buttle, an economist with the institute. “That’s a strong statement about people’s opinions on where the economy is going in the future.”

Buttle was in Revelstoke last Tuesday, Oct. 20, to present the findings of the Business Retention and Expansion that was conducted in the spring.

135 local businesses were surveyed as part of the study, which was coordinated locally by the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce using a questionnaire developed by the RDI.

The Revelstoke economy is dominated by service-based businesses, with nearly half classified as retail & wholesale trade, accommodation & food services, and arts, entertainment & recreation — reflecting Revelstoke’s growing tourism-based economy.

Businesses are largely very small, with an “overwhelming number” employing less than five people, and 84 per cent employing less than 20.

“You have a huge number of small-size businesses,” said Buttle.

There was also great longevity amongst businesses — with more than half in business for more than 10 years. 56 per cent reported they were growing, while 30 per cent said they were maturing. Only five per cent reported they were in decline. while the rest were emerging.

“It’s a nice healthy mix overall,” said Buttle.

The report notes a number of issues — mainly centred around the labour market. One thing that jumped out to Buttle was the number of temporary workers — almost 1/3 of workers fall into that category.

“This is way out of whack compared to other communities in the basin,” said Buttle. “It does present you with a different set of workforce challenges and opportunities that may be different compared to other communities in the region.”

Forty per cent of businesses said they had trouble recruiting employees. Most focused their recruitment efforts locally. “That’s natural, but it certainly speaks to the potential of looking outside the local workforce to fill in skills gaps to take pressure off the local work force,” said Buttle.

There were other issues. Training was cited as a problem. Buttle said that communities that subsidize training generally do much better.

There’s also a lack of investors in the region, said Buttle. “We don’t have any active angel investor funds. We don’t have an active venture capital community. We’re left looking for loans from banks and credit unions rather than working out some sort of equity relationship.”

The report makes a series of recommendations. It says actions should be targeted at supporting small businesses like have shared training and human resources. Increasing the number of youth and older workers is encouraged, as well as addressing the number of temporary workers.

The report says supports should be put in place to help businesses plan for future expansion and succession. It also notes that while 60 per cent of clients come from the local market, businesses only 22 per cent of businesses purchase their supplies locally. Buttle said addressing that gap could improve the local economy.

Alan Mason, the City of Revelstoke’s director of economic development, said a group has been put together to implement the recommendations in the report.

You can read the full report on the Review website.