If the word on the street can be believed, business is good in the Okanagan.
A half-day blitz Oct. 1, saw 65 business and civic leaders walk door-to-door and connected with 374 businesses throughout Lake Country, Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, West Kelowna and Peachland during the 2015 Central Okanagan Business Walk. The businesses reported a generally positive business environment throughout the region with 94 per cent saying business was either Fair/Steady (33 per cent) or Good/Increasing (61 per cent.) A total of 3,576 employees, (2,437 FT and 1,139 PT) are represented by the businesses visited.
The Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission (COEDC) held the first Business Walk in Canada in 2012. In a brief conversational survey, business owners/managers are asked to rate their business environment as Slow/Poor, Fair/Steady or Good/Increasing. Business operators are also asked what the greatest challenge is for their business and what kind of information would assist them. The most common need of businesses throughout the region is information related to hiring and human resources to help them find the workers they need with specific skills.
With recruitment and retention issues a major challenge throughout Canada, this year’s Walk added questions aimed at identifying the human resources needs of Central Okanagan businesses including if they have plans to sell or retire within 5 years, and whether or not there is a succession plan for the business. Around 17 per cent of the respondents said they planned to retire or sell their business and 38 per cent said they did not have a succession plan. This consistent with other studies that show the majority of businesses do not prepare sufficiently for retirement and succession, including the “Growing in the Okanagan 2020 Labour Market Outlook” study conducted in 2014.
A breakdown of Business Walk results in each area of the Central Okanagan is provided to business stakeholders including Chambers of Commerce/Board of Trade, business improvement associations and municipal governments as a mechanism to identify possible programs and services. One-on-one follow up to approximately 75 businesses throughout the region is facilitated by the COEDC. In addition businesses that respond Slow/Poor when asked about their business environment are offered assistance by the Commission.
“The Business Walk continues to be a valuable tool for the COEDC and its partners and stakeholders to connect directly with businesses in the region to identify their needs, and identify areas for future programming, said Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission Manager, Corie Griffiths.