Come 2014, the District of Kitimat’s economic development office will be putting on their gardening gloves, so to speak.
Rose Klukas, the town’s economic development officer, recently returned from Kelowna where she was introduced to the new concept of “economic gardening.”
In this context, economic gardening is a means to tend to the community’s smaller business and give them tools to help them grow.
“Lots of my day is spent with industrial proponents but the reality is small business has a big impact on the local economy and I`m thinking more than ever our small businesses have the advantage of this booming economy, but for some people…they might just need a little coaching in a new direction,” said Klukas.
The program, once it’s put into place, will focus primarily on existing businesses and teach them new ways to reach their market.
For example she said that geographic information systems (GIS) maps can give entrepreneurs more insight into where their customers are.
“For example if you`re thinking of opening up a pizza place, you could use your GIS system to see how many pizza places are in the northwest, what kind of competition you have,” she said.
In Kelowna where the economic gardening conference was held, Klukas said law firms and bakeries had taken advantage of GIS systems. She added businesses like dog sitters could use such maps to find the areas where working dog owners lived.
But the GIS is only a part of what economic gardening is.
“The other facet of it is to provide coaching and assistance to small businesses for business retention and expansion,” she said.
She said Kitimat is well primed to offer a niche business market.
“You don`t necessarily want to repeat what`s happening in your neighbouring communities. It`d be better to have niche businesses that would attract people into our community,” she said.