The results are in. The Elk Valley Business Retention and Expansion survey says . . .

“The major issues identified for businesses: workforce, housing, and attraction.” — Taylor Jenkins

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A sasquatch-costumed Taylor Jenkins stands on a snowy main street downtown Fernie.

Taylor Jenkins, Elk Valley economic recovery advisor, also moonlights as the “Griz.” — Photo courtesy Vince Mo

Last summer, the Elk Valley Economic Initiative (EVEI) announced a brand-new position, the Elk Valley Economic Recovery Advisor. After a thorough hiring process, Taylor Jenkins was appointed to the new full-time role.

Jenkins was tasked with completing four Business Expansion & Retention reports, one for the Elk Valley as a whole, and three for each community (Sparwood, Elkford, and Fernie). This included developing methodology for the survey, conducting market research, and engaging with local businesses. Here’s what nuggets of truth Jenkins unearthed in his findings.

Taylor Jenkins smiles on a cloudy day in the snowy mountains.

Taylor Jenkins was tasked with completing four Business Expansion & Retention reports, one for the Elk Valley as a whole, and three for each community (Sparwood, Elkford, and Fernie). — Photo courtesy Taylor Jenkins

What are the biggest takeaways from the recently released Elk Valley Business Retention and Expansion survey?

The biggest takeaway from the Elk Valley BRE survey was how interconnected businesses in the Elk Valley are. 22.6% of businesses operate in all three communities and 52% operate in at least two communities. The major issues identified for businesses: workforce, housing, and attraction—issues in all three communities. This shows that the Elk Valley as a whole needs to work together to address these issues.

What are the key regional differences between the three communities (Fernie / Elkford / Sparwood) and how are they being met?

Each community had different barriers to local business growth, aside from “lack of skilled staff,” and separate recommendations were outlined in the community BRE reports for each municipal government. Submitting qualitative data from the business community to the planning departments about these barriers, as outlined in the Elk Valley BRE report, will be crucial in ensuring these barriers to growth are met by each local government.

What are some potential solutions to the housing crisis?

The Elk Valley BRE report outlined three recommendations to address the shortage of workforce housing. Overall, the focus was addressing the housing crisis as a unified front. Facilitating conversations between communities and support organizations is crucial to ensure a collaborative and streamlined approach to housing in the Elk Valley. The short form recommendations were as follows:

  • Utilize partnerships to focus on a regional approach to housing in the Elk Valley
  • Stimulate the development of new housing by enhancing government procedures to housing construction
  • Support affordable housing in the Elk Valley—specific recommendations were made in each community report on how each local government can further support affordable housing

What are some potential solutions for workforce attraction?

While this issue is not exclusive to the Elk Valley, or British Columbia as a whole, there are a set of recommendations that the Elk Valley can act on to lessen this effect. They are:

  • Actively recruit outside of the geographic area
  • Promote the Elk Valley as a unified region
  • Promote and support local employment programs

Promoting the Elk Valley as a place to live, work, and play to a larger geographic area will help address workforce attraction issues. Increasing the online presence of the EVEI and the Elk Valley will support these efforts, as well as the Elk Valley Community profile. This profile focuses on promoting the Elk Valley and provides all relevant information a potential worker would need. 

What are some encouraging findings from the Elk Valley Business Retention and Expansion survey?

The Elk Valley has a very strong local business core and robust local business growth. The statistics that show this are:

  • 30% of businesses in the Elk Valley have been in operation in for over 20 years
  • 45% of businesses listed their current state of business as growing
  • 59% of businesses plan to expand their business in the next three years
  • Top community strengths were listed as “outdoor activities and recreational activities” then “customer loyalty”

For more info, you can take an in-depth look at all four of the Elk Valley community profiles

Kyle Born

Kyle Born is a writer for Kootenay Business and his initials match that of the magazine—it must be fate that brought them together. View all of Kyle Born’s articles

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