At the start of Small Business Week in B.C., Summerland made headlines in the Okanagan Valley and throughout the Province when the Chamber of Commerce unveiled BC’s first Highway WiFi hotspot.
Adjectives we were reading about Summerland included ‘cool’ and ‘innovative’ with suggestions that other communities should follow our lead.
The reality is that Summerland has been doing a lot of things right in the past year and more. The Chamber of Commerce and staff from the District of Summerland put our heads together in August to itemize some of the activity. Here’s a rundown:
Strong Business Partnerships – The Chamber of Commerce and the District of Summerland actively work together to welcome businesses to Summerland.
Summerland is home to an initiative that is unique in the province of British Columbia.
Every business that takes out a license in our community automatically has a membership in the Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber works to market the community of Summerland and serve their membership through support, education, promotion and advocacy.
This automatic membership is a tremendous value to new businesses as well as existing businesses.
Another strong business partner in our community is the Summerland Credit Union whose $500,000 Capital Fund helps create jobs and boost the Summerland economy.
Since the fall more than a dozen new jobs have been created with the help of this fund.
Expanded Industrial Park Land – Summerland requires additional industrial land to attract new business and support future growth.
The recent conditional exclusion of 7.2 hectares of land from the ALR, for industrial purposes, and adjacent to the existing industrial park at Bentley Road, will be a significant expansion. The existing timeline suggests spring of 2013 for the approval and implementation of this plan.
Economic Development Plans – The District of Summerland commissioned an extensive economic development review in the fall of 2009.
What resulted was a report which had input from approximately 225 individuals and stakeholders.
Many of the recommended strategies have been completed such as the creation of the Economic Development Committee, some have been initiated, and some are well under way. Partner groups such as the Chamber of Commerce are also responsible for components of the plan.
Climate Action Policies – A variety of Climate Action targets, objectives and policies exist in the Official Community Plan.
These include a proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, densification in the downtown core, green certification for businesses, electric vehicle charging stations downtown and various initiatives to support green tourism.
Efforts to reduce regulatory barriers and make it easier for businesses to operate across jurisdictions are also underway.
The above items indicate good progress in making Summerland small business friendly.
Are we entirely there? No. Important areas still need to be addressed such as putting policies in place to change or balance the ratio of commercial property tax to residential property tax.
Additionally, the Chamber and the District of Summerland need to work together to help new or existing small businesses get the information and assistance they need via up-to-date business information.
So, Summerland, give yourself a collective pat on the back. Good things are happening here and we are being noticed.
We always appreciate your feedback. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Christine Petkau at email@example.com.
Arlene Fenrich is President of the Summerland Chamber of Economic Development and Tourism and the owner of Edgy Petals. All of the members of The Board of Directors serve as volunteers.