The Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute was in Golden last Thursday to present Golden Area Initiatives’ findings from a Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) survey that was administered to 114 businesses in town.
Among the businesses that agreed to participate, the largest percentage was in the retail and wholesale industry, with 26 per cent, while 21 per cent were in the accommodation and food services industry.
Interestingly, only five per cent of the businesses reported that their business was declining, while 11 per cent believed their business was emerging and 53 per cent said that their business was growing. These numbers represent a very positive sign of growth for business in Golden.
Somewhat unique to this area, 47 per cent of the businesses that were surveyed have been in business for 10 years or less, which is evidence that there are plenty of new businesses opening up around town. Additionally, 52 per cent of businesses reported that they had plans for expansion within the next three years and among the businesses that were set to expand, $413 million would be spent on those plans, although the vast majority of that money would be sent by just a few busine
Despite these results, many obstacles towards new business development were reported during the survey, including telecommunications and a reported lack of proper airport facilities. Parking by-laws and zoning problems were also reported. One respondent to the survey had this to say:
“A lot of people (businesses) want to buy in Golden but can’t due to the poor development approval process, they just walk away. Parking bylaws are outrageous, even though we have businesses closing down and empty doors, the town makes it impossible for businesses to start up.”
Speaking following the presentation about the survey findings, Town of Golden Chief Administrative Officer Jon Wilsgard responded to the claims about parking regulations and pointed to other communities that have even larger issues. According to Wilsgard, under zoning bylaws start up businneses are stratified based on how much parking they should have for themselves.
If a business can’t supply those parking spaces, then they are required to pay cash in lieu of providing them, based on the value required for the municipality to supply a parking space. Ideally, that money is eventually used to create public parking in the community. That practice is standard across North America.
“In the town of Golden what we charge as cash in lieu of a parking spot is $3,500, in Revelstoke it’s $20,000, in Banff it’s almost $80,000,” he said.
“Now you’re telling us that we’re making it difficult for businesses to start up?”
Wilsgard also said that he believes the survey was a great project that would have great benefits for the town while also bursting the “bubble” that exists in Golden, which is the idea that Golden is different than its surrounding communities. The study shows, he said, that there are numerous regional consistencies from town to town, both good and bad.
“We’re all in the same boat,” he said. “We’re no different than anybody else. Let’s start by recognizing that and that in fact, in many ways maybe we are better than everybody else out there, and maybe in some ways we are worse, but let’s make sure that we know the difference, and that we know where we stand.”