Doesn’t every municipality wish and pray it had a sure-fire way of boosting its local economy.
I believe it lies in city hall and council laying the foundation on which local business and commerce can build. That entails ensuring the city is supplying the basics of infrastructure; good water, roads, sewer, good sidewalks, garbage collection, policing etc. Once that foundation is laid, it’s time for government to get out of the way and let private industry build and flourish. Naturally, this includes continued work to make taxes fair and equitable, the business license process as clear and expeditious as possible, the inspection process as quick as possible and a sign bylaw that lists rules and policies that apply for everybody. The last session of council has, I believe, finally achieved that with the revised sign bylaw.
You ask about more and better paying jobs? For us to attract a factory that employs hundreds of workers at $25 dollars per hour or more is not likely, especially since most North American manufacturing is done in China. We have such a small labour pool and our geographical location is not the best for shipping. Therefore, we must play to our strong suit: tourism.
The current state of our economy? Flourishing. Just ask almost anyone who owns a restaurant, hotel/motel, gas station, gift shop, etc. how they feel about having two high seasons now. Business licences are at another record high number, housing starts are up and Community Futures continues to offer expert help with start-ups. These are the messages we’ve got to continue to get out to rest of the world.
Deal with our challenges, promote our strengths.
We need to concentrate on economic development to improve our tax base and maintain a healthy, sustainable economic environment. This allows the city to thrive in every way, provide jobs, greater and better services and maintain our social services.
One of the ways of doing this is for the city to target one or two major projects to bring in new business. Here are a couple of ideas:
The Rocky Mountaineer brings approximately $18 million into the economy of Kamloops every year. Right now the Rocky Mountaineer comes to Revelstoke, stops, but passengers do not get on or off. Revelstoke would be a logical place for Rocky Mountaineer passengers to stop for a few days. The tourism dollars generated would significantly improve our local economy.
Revelstoke should look to become a “Centre of Learning” for adventure tourism and eco-tourism. We are in a unique and natural environment for people to come and learn about guiding and other aspects of adventure and eco-tourism. We already have Avalanche Canada, one of the premier avalanche information and training organizations in the world. This is an industry which would fit into the culture and environment of Revelstoke, generate jobs and bring in revenue for the community.
Revelstoke is a “can-do” community and, with a vision for and a commitment to such projects, in collaboration with other potential/necessary partners, these can be achieved.
Revelstoke is fortunate enough to have a forward thinking, positive and optimistic population with a growing reputation of offering a high quality of life. This has created a demand in the marketplace for business and families wanting to move here.
The challenge we face is, despite this demand, we do not have the employment opportunities and development environment necessary for people or business to setup here. Here are some ideas that can be implemented over time to spur our economy:
1) City council needs to meet with our business community for a brainstorm session, listen and set goals to bridge a brighter future. The first step is always communication and goal setting.
2) With targets set, all city staff and business owners need to work collectively to achieve these goals and set timelines for their achievement.
3) While we are changing our employer environment to make it more attractive, we need an aggressive marketing campaign targeting specific business/developers we would like to see in our community. Tradeshows, websites, cold calls and door knocking to invite new business.
The quick hit list: Tax deferment, discounted land, improved city process, increase tourist numbers and spending, incentives for building upgrades, readjustment of mill rate so it is more in line with provincial averages.
One thing is for sure: we need to ensure the opportunity for living wages, so everyone can live a comfortable life in Revelstoke.
Economic development is a huge concern. If we can grow the tax base, we can spread out the tax burden that has been placed on the residents over the last few council terms.
I certainly think we must take a position of a zero per cent tax increase to spur some development. We also must review development cost charges. From what I understand, the DCC’s in Revelstoke are high.
I have heard from local developers and builders that the city is hard to deal with. The city has had developers walk away from multi-million dollar projects. That is shameful!
We need to create open lines of communication with developers and builders to make sure they are getting the information and direction they need to move forward.
Like us, many people want to live in Revelstoke. We have to find a way to encourage them to come and stay.
With lower real-estate costs, lower interest rates and more tourists coming to town, the economy of Revelstoke seems to be turning around. That said, there are many basic things that I’d like to implement that should have been done in the past.
These things include:
• Going to business trade shows with detailed information packages that show why Revelstoke is a great place to set-up shop
• Creating a municipal readiness plan that shows what resources are available for new businesses
• Welcoming input from the chamber of commerce and other progressive focus groups to stimulate more interest in Revelstoke.
The chamber has a limited budget to pursue new business. Perhaps the town should be stepping-up to encourage business start-ups in Revelstoke. In business, you cannot wait for customers to come along – you have to go after them.
In the interest of preserving Revelstoke culture and lifestyle, perhaps we can get smaller cottage-type industries like a pellet mill, a kayak building company, rubber recycling, private/public educational institutions, some sort of call centre, etc. There are so many things we can be doing to create better paying jobs, but we’re not. Did you know transport trucks from Calgary drive right by here and have to transfer loads in Kelowna or Kamloops, only to come right back to Revelstoke? Revelstoke could be home to a trucking depot to transfer loads on to Nakusp, Nelson, Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna. This would increase our tax base, create jobs, decrease shipping costs for local businesses and lower our carbon footprint.
Additionally, when local government tries to micro-manage new business, it discourages future development. I’d like to see the city step-back and let the entrepreneurs have more creative control of their businesses.
In closing, I would like say we have a lot of work to do and I am ready and willing to take it on.
The best way for government to help create jobs is to stay out of the way of people who really create real jobs.
What we as a city can do, however, is to do what it is the responsibility of a city to do and do it the very best that we can. That responsibility is providing a safe, clean, adequately-serviced community with enough amenities, parks and recreational opportunities to make it an attractive place to work, play and visit. Fortunately, without doing anything, because of its natural setting, Revelstoke already has a leg up on many other communities.
I am finding more and more that people want to come to Revelstoke because it has a growing reputation as a great place to be and they want to be here. They bring with them their own visions and creativity to, in many cases, create their own and other jobs. I do not believe subsidies, grants and incentives in the long run create what I think we, as a community, are looking for.
I think the city can show itself to be truly open for business and can continue to promote itself as a great place to be, at live up to that promotion.
How is the economy? Since 2008, Revelstoke, along with most of the rest of the world took a hit. But, Revelstoke’s economy is respectable and improving. Our diversity stands us in good stead and will continue to do so.
Encouragement of better paying jobs is done with the city working with the business community. The Poverty Reduction Strategy and Social Committee members are working to build awareness of issues faced by the working poor.
The Economic Development Committee works at dispersing tourism infrastructure funds. Events organized by the sports and arts volunteer puts heads in hotel beds, which creates synergy.
Positive visitor experiences may lead to projects like the snowmobilers building a subdivision on Westsyde Road.
The Revelstoke experience is exemplified by the summer music in the plaza. Arts projects paid for by the resort enhance this.
The city has a role to play in shaving the business ratio. The economy is stable, the school population – a good indicator – is stable.
Small businesses have a tough time when they are a lone cook, craftsman or artist. Young entrepreneurs have the energy but still need support.
The province wants to come to Revelstoke to study our branding and indicators of stats on events. That which is measured gets improved. New visitor stats show growing summer traffic. The Enhancement Committee has erected signage getting more traffic coming downtown.
A diversified economic base like forestry, BC Hydro, Parks Canada, CPR and Downie mills help with livable-wage jobs. Entrepreneurs like the local beef producer and Terra Firma farms leads to more agricultural entrepreneurs. The Farmers Market is well supported.
Existing businesses wishing to grow and expand need to be celebrated.
We are on the leading edge of communities moving ahead; we need to honour that.
Policies to promote economic and business development have been a cornerstone of my campaign, and they are based on my experience in city affairs and lots of listening to our stakeholders, economic development experts and business leaders.
• Actively seeking partnerships to develop new stable employers in Revelstoke. The city’s economic development department just received dozens of expressions of interest to develop a biomass facility here. Yet some current councillors are still insisting city council can’t work to attract well-paying jobs here.
• Reduce commercial taxes. The ratio was the second worst in B.C. in 2011 and third worst in 2013. Council needs to listen to the collective voice of business in Revelstoke in the chamber of commerce. Every year they say that’s the number one issue.
• Finish what we started in our stalled development market through targeted reductions of our development cost charges. Ten per cent? Twenty per cent? Let’s be competitive.
• Explore the development of revitalization tax exemption zones to promote targeted and fair investment in key new industries and economic attractions.
• Measure what we manage in development services to improve our development process. If we are improving our service, we need to be able to prove it through numbers.
• Council needs open-door communication with the business community.
• Keep what we’ve got. This is key. In media reports, for example, we heard clearly from Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. that commercial taxes are prohibitively expensive to develop a new brewery.
Find my platform at www.facebook.com/Aaron.Orlando.Revelstoke.Council for more economic development ideas.
I believe there can be much improvement in Revelstoke. Attracting high-paying industry is one way to boost the economy.
Encourage industry that is here to expand – Downie or one of the other mills – plywood or pallets. Help promote project that are on the table right now to move forward (adventure part) even if they are outside our boundaries. We can offer DCC incentives, such as reduced DCCs, or have DCC payment over five years.
We can offer tax incentives for a reasonable time line. We can also support low-income housing or reasonable rental options. Move projects along at a reasonable timeframe to ensure building can be finished and the contractor can then move to the next project. The more jobs, the more of a tax base we have to operate.
If we can trust our numbers, the economy is on an upswing. We know that the number of hotel visits is up; building permits are up, as are business licenses. I think this is an indication that our local economy is moving in the right direction. This is consistent with what is happening across the country.
What role does the city play in boosting our economy? The city has for several years, through the economic development office, tried to attract more business to Revelstoke. This is not an easy task. I do think there are opportunities. The tech field and education may be two areas where we can find people willing to locate in Revelstoke. Both may require investment in infrastructure.
As well, permissible tax exemptions should always be investigated as a tool to entice business into relocating.
Meanwhile, we need to work towards improving the climate for our existing business. Keeping taxes in check and delivering efficient services to business so they can, when required, expand.
Revelstoke’s economy flourishes in the winter months. There are many more residents here to enjoy the winter activities and avail themselves of all the community has to offer. The summer months pale slightly to winter with tourist activity and dollars spent within our community helping to boost our bottom line. The shoulder months, April and October, when there are few tourists and few activities, is when we see the spending dip to a yearly low. These are the times when we need to be creative. Maybe we should plan for a spring and fall celebration, or a festival to entice visitors and locals alike to come out and enjoy the community. I have been to communities where they celebrate the autumn leaves and these celebrations bring in people and their contributions to the local economy. With some work, enhancing what we have and being a bit creative may make the difference in your favorite restaurant closing or staying open in these off-season times. We encourage better jobs and better wages by enhancing the infrastructure we have in place to attract those who wish to be here for our amenities. If they come for these they may bring with them a new skill set to bolster our business community.
The Times Review did not receive a response from George Buhler by press time.