- BC Games
Central Okanagan business walkers hear a familiar refrain
The song remains the same for Central Okanagan businesses - recruitment and retention of employees is still a major issue.
Once again, that was the predominant feeling of business owners and operators interviewed during this week's second full Business Walk in the Central Okanagan. (An industry specific walk focussing on manufacturing was held in May.)
According to walk coordinator Corie Griffiths, business development officer with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, more than 380 businesses were visited and interviewed briefly by 27 teams of "walkers" Tuesday, about 50 more than the the 320 visited last year.
This year the walk included areas in Peachland, West Kelowna, the Westbank First Nation reserve, Lake Country and three areas in Kelowna—downtown, Rutland and South Pandosy, with South Pandosy being new this year.
Griffiths said she was not surprised that employee recruitment and retention was once again a central concern for businesses here as our demographic has more people leaving the workforce here than entering it.
She said while the numbers are preliminary, it appears that the number of owners and operators reporting business as steady or improving this year is about the same as last year. In 2012, 88 per cent of those visited by the walk teams had the optimistic outlook.
One of the businesses visited in South Pandosy was Leo's Videos, one of just two movie rental stores left in the city.
Owner Leo Bartel's said he was happy to see the walk team and glad it had provincial, as wel as municipal and Community Futures representation.
He said business has been picking up in the last year but still is not where is was during the recession.
Still, he said improvements to the South Pandosy business district has helped attract more people and that has been god to see.
A full public report on the 2013 Business Walk is expected to be complete within the next few weeks.
Griffith said this year, there was a stronger participation by politicians, with two of the three local MLAs, Norm Letnick and Steve Thomson joining walk teams, as well as MP Ron Cannan and several Kelowna city councillors. City staff also participated, as well as other provincial and local representatives and business people.
And the business walk concept appears to be catching on elsewhere.
While the province now uses it as a tool in its resources for small business, at the same time as the walk was happening here, there was also a business walk taking place in Vernon.
Griffiths said the EDC here shared its information with its counterpart in Vernon and it was decided to do a pilot walk there this year to gauge the business climate in the north Okanagan city as well.