South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce executive director Shelly Morton, left, joined District of 100 Mile House economic development and planning director Joanne Doddridge in organizing the second annual business walk on Nov. 29, 2017, for which the summary report has now been released. Carole Rooney photo.

Business Walk summary surprises mayor

Mitch Campsall points to positivity, shopping locally to maintain community

The recently released results of the second annual Business Walk that took place in November 2017 in 100 Mile House show some surprising results, according to Mayor Mitch Campsall.

Sponsored through a partnership between the District of 100 Mile House, in partnership with the South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce and the Province of British Columbia, it shows the comments from 72 businesses with a total of 489 employees.

Campsall says he “wasn’t quite expecting” the 75 per cent of businesses that rated the state of their operations as steady or growing compared to last year, or the 71 per cent indicating it was steady or growing compared to “pre-wildfires.”

“I was expecting it as quite a bit less, because of everything we’ve gone through. A lot of the numbers were way better than I was expecting, which is really good.”

Two-thirds of businesses surveyed say they have the same level of staff as before the wildfires, with the remaining third split 60/40 for reduced or increased staffing, respectively.

“I went on the walk, and I have to say, the positive feedback on 100 Mile and doing business in 100 Mile was really high,” says Campsall. “I was really impressed with that.”

The positive attitudes Campsall experienced were encouraging, he says, adding we have got to keep that going to keep the community growing, as that’s the unique aspect to 100 Mile House that people notice, and it brings them back.

Almost all businesses polled experienced impacts during the July and August fire season, ranging from lost income due to lack of tourists to impacts only during the evacuation period.

While the report reveals several businesses also experienced a surge of business once the evacuation was lifted, more than half (53 per cent) indicate ongoing impacts, continued effects from lost summer revenue and a perceived cautiousness in consumer spending.

Campsall says working with the Province and its post-wildfire funding assistance for increased tourism and advertising is already underway.

“Let’s face it, the tourism industry was an absolute disaster this year and that’s probably one of the worst hit – tourism and ranching got hit the hardest … and those are the ones we’ve got to really work on.”

However, 74 per cent of businesses surveyed indicate they have rebounded after the fires, with 61 per cent reporting operations as back to normal. Apart from those with wildfire needs, other needs indicated cash flow and attracting customers.

The biggest challenges reported by participating businesses were staffing issues, from finding employees to retaining them to the reliability of staff, which Campsall says is a common theme throughout the Cariboo.

“We are trying to figure out how to attract more staff. We do need housing – housing is a big issue in our community. It’s all part and parcel of it.”

The local forest industry also got hard hit, but is more likely to bounce back in its overall recovery, he explains.

Local investment just isn’t there for spec housing, so the District is forced to look outside for townhouse or low-income housing of any kind, he adds.

“One thing is for certain – we are a resilient community.”

The mayor’s message regarding what all residents can do to support local business may be age-old, but “shop local” has taken on a “huge” impact in recent year for maintaining the community, he explains.

“The online shopping is hurting our community tremendously. A lot of our small businesses rely on people coming to the door.”

Campsall says even the charitable organizations depend on businesses getting local shoppers in order to afford to help the community volunteers support the community.

Across the board, a common message from local businesses is a need for additional financing and tourism and business marketing.

The District’s Jan. 9 news release states the next steps will be to follow up with the business owners, setting up a support team to provide information on available supports and pursuing further opportunities to promote economic prosperity.

Other support for the business walk came from WorkBC, Community Futures Cariboo-Chilcotin, South Cariboo Visitor Centre, the Cariboo Regional District and CIBC.

The Business Walk Summary Report is available online at www.100milehouse.com and at www.southcariboochamber.org.

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