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Kitimat survey results highlight a changing business climate


The 2023 Kitimat Business Walk has revealed a mixed bag of growth, challenges, and opportunities for the local businesses community. The annual survey aims to gauge the economic climate by directly engaging with business owners and operators.

Results from the Oct. 16 survey included 46 businesses, indicate a slight increase in businesses reporting steady operations, up to 47 per cent from 45 per cent the previous year. However, there’s a noticeable shift with more businesses shrinking (15 per cent in 2023 compared to six per cent in 2022) and fewer growing (38 per cent down from 48 per cent in 2022). This change is largely attributed to local industry transformations and demographic shifts, especially as the LNG Canada project transitions from construction to start-up.

Laurel D’Andrea, executive director for the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce said the overall trends aren’t dissimilar from last year’s, and applauded LNG Canada’s assistance in helping the business community make the transition, most notably with its rebate grant fund, valued at around $300,000, to help owners shift their business models.

“We all knew that during the construction phase business was going to be robust, it was going to be buys. Now that we’re heading toward decommissioning, what is that going to look like? We’ve had conversations with LNG Canada … and I find them to be very supportive and responsive when we come up with ideas to help local business.”

Staffing also remains a significant challenge, with 39 per cent of businesses identifying it as their primary concern, an increase from 29 per cent last year.

The District of Kitimat recently completed a new five-year economic development plan that features a “boldly” revitalized downtown area and the promotion of small business growth and entrepreneurism. D’Andrea suggested this is key to reversing declining rates of staff retention.

“I really hope that when we start to see progress on the revitalization that we’re going to see a busier downtown. You’ve got to like the surroundings you work in.”

In terms of support, businesses expressed a need for initiatives like ‘Encourage Buy Local’ and efforts to reduce regulatory hurdles. Marketing support was the most requested resource, indicating a shift in business needs and priorities.

In response to these findings, the District of Kitimat and the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce plan to continue supporting local businesses through various initiatives. These include the Kitimat Bound project for recruitment assistance, launching the ‘Keep it Local Kitimat’ shop local program, and collaborating on economic development projects like the Minerals North Conference in 2024.

The survey also highlighted what businesses value most about operating in Kitimat. The top reasons have consistently been the area’s location and clientele. Despite some concerns over the cost of doing business and finding talented labor, businesses have shown an improvement in sentiment compared to the previous year.

About the Author: Quinn Bender

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