This last month was not a good one for the Summerland business community.
We lost three businesses from our downtown core. While all three probably had their reasons, their loss is nevertheless disturbing.
In my capacity at the Summerland Review, I am in contact with business owners every day.
These entrepreneurs are on the front line of the local economy.
I hear their successes, their frustrations and their challenges.
Many of them are concerned about the future of Summerland and the local business community.
As in most things, success breeds success.
The more activity there is on Main Street, the better it is for the overall success of Summerland.
No amount of workshops, business walks, or task force meetings can take the place of action.
As I have written a few times in this space, we need growth in our population to secure a healthy future for Summerland.
Businesses closing, school enrolment declining, food bank numbers swelling are just symptoms of the root problem.
Growth. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it’s just arithmetic.
We need people here.
We need families with young children to fill our schools.
Businesses need people in the job market to hire.
The municipality needs to increase the tax base to pay for the services we all take for granted.
We need a real estate market that offers options in a variety of price ranges. We need affordable rental stock.
Summerland needs to shout from the top of Giant’s Head that we are open for business and open for growth.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the reputation that Summerland has right now.
Previous fights over growth proposals have sent the message that the doors are closed here.
Recently a development proposal made its way through an approval process at municipal hall.
The developer did all the due diligence required by the law, spent money on reports and jumped through every hoop.
His proposal was grudgingly approved by our mayor and council, but not before a couple of them took some shots at the proposal in an attempt to delay it further.
This simply can’t happen.
I am all for regulating developers and making sure they follow the guidelines and rules. However, we need to make sure that when they do, they are treated with respect and given complete cooperation.
Scenarios like this spread the word that Summerland is difficult to conduct business in.
Not all developers have the patience that this particular one did.
They simply move on to somewhere else.
Without improvements, both immediate and long term, our problem will get worse.
Our taxes will go up. Our businesses will continue to close. Our schools will continue to operate under the threat of closure.
I personally don’t want to see it happen. I have used this space to promote ideas that I think would help but I would love to hear yours.
Your involvement can be part of the solution.
So please, take some time and send me your ideas for how to grow Summerland and make it a vibrant, energetic city.
Together we can make a difference and make our community stronger!
Rob Murphy is the sales manager at the Summerland Review.