There is a definite feeling in Kimberley that things are getting better, and you need look no further for proof than all the business activity and feeling of vibrancy in the downtown core, says Mayor Ron McRae.
There are a number of new businesses, businesses changing hands and businesses having a great summer. The Kinbari Japanese Restaurant has re-opened under new ownership, there are new owners at the Kimberley Bakery, the Bean Tree, Natural Attractions. The empty Mark Creek Mall has new local owners who have a long list of interested, potential tenants.
Additionally, according to the census Kimberley was the fastest growing community in the East Kootenay with the population growing 8.4 per cent. McRae points to a 54 per cent growth in the population from birth to four years old as an indication that young families see Kimberley as a good place to be. The hotel room tax grew 8.7 percent in 2012 over 2011, which indicates more visitors coming to Kimberley. There has been a 13 per cent growth in building permit construction values and an 11 per cent growth in business licenses.
“Kimberley retains a high level of independently-owned businesses,” McRae said.
“Unlike the trend in many other urban areas toward dominance of large franchises and big box stores, Kimberley retains a high number of locally owned and operated businesses. Local ownership is more likely to benefit the community through recirculation of revenue on other goods and services, as well as take an interest in supporting community activities.”
All in all there is a vibrancy to the downtown that has been lacking in recent years, McRae says.
“There is a lot happening in Kimberley right now,” he said. “We are in the middle of the summer season that is going very well.”
Kimberley Chamber President Darren Close echoes those sentiments.
“There is a very good amount of commercial activity right now, a significant amount,” he said.
There are also other deals pending, Close says.
Many people have been working very hard on this revitalization of business, he says.
“The new Downtown Business Association helped identify members of the business community who are proactive, with a vision of working together to help each other out. There used to be a more competitive air to the Platzl where businesses were in competition with each other rather than aligning to help each other. The DBA identified the leaders.
“We have had great support from the City, a lot of help.”
In addition, Close says that the new Chamber focus on business has assisted.
“The new focus has helped and Mike Guarnery (the new Chamber manager) has been an outstanding addition. He is there, open, approachable, with a good mind set. He knows what the role of the Chamber is and the way he operates is insanely positive.”
Another good indicator that the new business focus is paying off is that the Chamber membership is growing.
It has been a very good year so far, Close says.
“We had the most successful JulyFest in years. Feedback wise, participation wise, it has all been positive. The First Saturdays are doing amazingly well. The late Thursdays are picking up momentum. When you walk through the Platzl on a Thursday evening you can feel the vibrancy.”
“The Chamber has been really central to what’s happening,” McRae said.
And it’s not just downtown. McRae points to the revitalization of business in Marysville as well.
Other positives in the region will assist in continuing the upward swing in Kimberley, McRae says.
For instance, the regional forestry sector is being buoyed by a recovery in the American housing market that has pushed lumber prices to multi-year highs.
Regional mining activity remains strong. Regional mineral exploration activity has been buoyed by high metal prices and demand for coal from the Elk Valley is consistent, though slowing growth in Asia may indicate a slow down in the sector.
The Prairie provinces, a source of many visitors for Kimberley, are forecast to enjoy continued above-average economic growth over the next couple of years, though for Albertans flood recovery efforts may take priority to vacations this summer.
Growth in the American economy has been exceeding expectations recently, and a weaker Canadian dollar should make recreating in Kimberley more attractive for Americans.