Business Walks Open Dialogue Between Local Stakeholders
The Challenge: Connecting with the Local Biz
Retaining local businesses is a proven strategy to help keep the local economy healthy. How can economic development practitioners gain an understanding of the current local business dynamics and environment, and develop the tools needed to ensure support and growth?
The Solution: Walking and Talking
City of Abbotsford Economic Development (CAED) embarked on its inaugural Business Walks initiative in September 2015. Over 143 short interviews were held with business owners and managers as one tool in CAED’s new Business Retention and Expansion Program (BRE). The BRE program is set to support over 6,000 licensed businesses currently operating in Abbotsford.
Business Walks allowed CAED to gather vital information from the business community to identify the types of support services needed for business growth. This information was a high level ‘temperature test’ for businesses in Abbotsford.
Thirty-eight volunteer walkers participated in the three days of walks across the Historic Downtown Abbotsford, Clearbrook/South Fraser Way, and Peardonville Industrial area. Walkers included MLAs, local elected officials, economic development staff, and associations such as the Chamber of Commerce CFIB and Small Business BC, as well as other organizations involved with small business.
Results: Survey Says….
- 93% of Abbotsford businesses indicated steady or increasing business growth
- 58% of businesses rate ‘Location’ as #1 reason for doing business in Abbotsford
- 25% of businesses rate ‘Clientele’ as #2 reason for doing business in Abbotsford
- 71% of businesses interviewed do NOT have a succession plan
- 27% of businesses seek support with hiring and are challenged with finding skilled workers
- 53% of businesses interviewed are looking to hire 1/+ new employee(s)
- More than 70 businesses have been identified for follow up support
Outcomes: Focused Learning
Since the walks, staff have connected with all businesses identified as needing follow up support. CAED will now be organizing three events to provide support to businesses in the areas requested:
- workshop on business planning
- workshop on succession planning
- financing fair on how to access capital for growth
Next Steps: Keeping in Touch
The next business walk will include participants from both the University of the Fraser Valley and Tourism Abbotsford, which will provide and strive for:
- more connectivity with the community
- support with succession planning
- assistance with work force development
September 29, 2016