Concerns raised about labour market

Job creation and a sluggish economy were among the top issues raised at a recent business luncheon.

The luncheon, held at Sumac Ridge Estate Winery, was organized by the Summerland Chamber of Economic Development and Tourism.

Mayor Janice Perrino said Summerland’s shrinking population, which dropped by more than 250 people between 2009 and 2010, is the biggest problem facing the community.

This is happening because we’re based on an elderly population,” she said.

The aging population is also showing itself at municipal hall, where all of the directors and senior managers are 50 years old or older.

“They could all retire in the next five years,” she said. “We need to see the pace for new people to take over.”

Cam Bond said the amount of empty commercial real estate is disturbing.

“You’ve got all these facilities sitting empty,” he said.

While the community lost more than 200 jobs in 2009 and 2010 with the loss of three major employers, Lisa Jaager, manager of the chamber, said 90 new businesses have started up.

“That shows a new optimism,” she said. “Right now that’s the key to what we’re looking for.”

Most new businesses in place are small and do not require additional staff.

Perrino said a strategic plan to promote the community has already been in place, “but it wasn’t working,” she added.

She explained that changes are needed in order to improve the community.

Participants at the luncheon will meet again in roughly a year to review the progress that has been made, Jaager said.