It has involved months of work conducting interviews and compiling results, but the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce has completed, and presented to Council, the results of their 2013-2014 Survey of Kimberley Business.
The survey involved 52 interviews with Kimberley business owners, which took place beginning last August until January of this year. Results were inputted into a Rural Development Institute-designed economic development software for analysis.
Businesses from all over Kimberley, not just the downtown area, were interviewed.
The overall results suggest that the business environment in Kimberley is positive and improving, although there are challenges, many of which can be addressed through City and Chamber activities.
The survey found that the majority think the business climate in Kimberley is either fair (47.5%) or good (30%).
The numbers indicate a positive environment, says Chamber Manager Mike Guarnery.
“The reality is we have pretty steady growth in the business community,” he said. “Of the businesses surveyed most fall in the one to ten per cent growth rate. But we had several where you see really high growth and only one in 52 declined. I think that’s very positive.
“Sure there’s lots of room for continued growth but these numbers will stand by themselves. This is the information, given to us by the businesses.”
There were positives to be found even in businesses where an ownership changes was anticipated in the next 10 years. Eight of those businesses projected growth from 1 to 9 per cent, three project 10 to 24 per cent growth and three 25 to 49 per cent growth.
“This suggests that Kimberley has good investment prospects and that change in ownership is not necessarily due to lack of sales. This is consistent with the reality of an aging population in which long-standing entrepreneurs have the desire to do other things in life,” the survey reports.
Another positive — half of the businesses surveyed intend to expand sometime in the next 10 years. And two-thirds of those surveyed believe the business climate will improve in the next five years, with tourism leading the way as the primary industry affecting Kimberley.
But despite a generally positive outlook, there are constraints to business growth. The two major problems are obtaining both skilled staff and financial assistance. Rising energy costs are also a concern.
The report outlines ways in which these problems can be addressed.
“We can see constraints,” Guarnery said. “One of the ways for the Chamber to assist is to let business owners know that there are avenues available for employment training, for accessing capital and financing, and accessing new markets.”
For trained staff, it is suggested that the Chamber continue the Ambassador program to develop employees with more knowledge of Kimberley. There are also many other training opportunities such as those accessed through the Columbia Basin Trust, programs like Micro Business Training, Community Futures East Kootenay, Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy and more. The Chamber can also assist in bringing local businesses more awareness of business financing programs through local banks, credit unions and community futures.
The Chamber would like to follow up this survey with more interviews with the businesses surveyed, and in three years follow up again to see if and how the constraints have been addressed.
But most importantly, the Chamber wants to correct the impression that Kimberley doesn’t have viable business environment.
“The value of this survey is to extinguish the perception that Kimberley is not a good place for investment when in fact it’s very good. The current perception of a negative business environment is now compromised because we have the data to prove otherwise.”
All data collected is strictly confidential, with details only available to Guarnery, Kevin Wilson from the City of Kimberley Economic Development department and the Rural Development Institute.