June 23rd, 2024

Safety and social issues at the top of business concerns

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on May 17, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

When it comes to the issues for which the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce should be advocating on behalf of Lethbridge businesses, there are few surprises.

According to a Chamber business and community issues survey, 56.4 per cent of survey respondents indicate the number one concern at the municipal level is community safety/social issues. Property taxes takes the number two spot, followed by the attraction and retention of skilled labour.

At the provincial level, 55.4 per cent of respondents indicate the Chamber should be advocating on the issue of affordability, followed by access to skilled labour in second spot, and in third the provincial debt and deficit.

Federally, the top concern is carbon pricing, followed by the federal debt and deficit, then immigration reform, including the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The annual survey asked Chamber members to identify the issues that most affect their businesses, which then helps determine which issues the Chamber should pursue.

The top three business issues identified by the survey are economic conditions, followed by social issues/community safety, then workforce. The top three impacts of those issues are the increased cost of doing business, increased cost to customers, and business owners and managers assuming more responsibilities.

Nearly 50 per cent of respondents report they are having problems recruiting workers for specific positions, specifically for skilled trades, accounting and bookkeeping, and unskilled positions.

More than three-quarters of Chamber members say the number of unfilled positions within their companies are stable, indicating an inability to put the right people in the right positions. Nearly 20 per cent indicate their number of unfilled positions are increasing.

Under economic conditions, 64.1 per cent of respondents feel positively about the overall health of their business. That is down slightly, however, from the 2023 Brighter Together Survey in which 66 per cent of Lethbridge businesses expressed a favourable outlook. When it comes to the overall health of Lethbridge’s business climate, only 50.5 per cent of members have a positive outlook, while the majority of other businesses are unsure.

Chamber members have expressed concern for several years over social issues and community safety, and are experiencing a direct financial impact. In the last year members indicate they have lost revenue from thefts and break-ins, increased investment in security or staff training, or decreased foot traffic.

Affordable housing as a means of reducing homelessness is supported by 85.9 per cent of Chamber members, with 74.7 per cent in favour of permanent supportive housing. There is no consensus, however, where such developments should be built, and the general attitude of “not in my backyard” persists.

The survey also indicates municipal red tape negatively impacts growth and competitiveness. The top three sources impacting growth or competitiveness are municipal utilities, business tax/mill rate, and permit fees.

Many of the respondents who had renovation or expansion projects requiring a permit in the last year indicate timelines and delays, bylaw complexity, subjectivity of guidelines, and uncertainty were the top barriers to the projects.

Despite the impacts of COVID 19, slightly fewer than half of business respondents accessed the federal government’s Canada Emergency Business Account and Regional Relief Recovery Fund programs, and 90 per cent of those who did were able to meet the Jan. 18, 2024 deadline for loan forgiveness.

“That would indicate that concerns abut CEBA/RRRF repayments were overblown, and research by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Business Data Lab indicating that fewer than 20 per cent of CEBA/RRRF loan recipients would not be able to repay, was correct,” the survey states.

The survey also indicates that 66.7 per cent of members are in the same or better financial position as they were before COVID.

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The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce did nothing to protect downtown businesses that were impacted by the Supervised Drug Consumption Site.
Our businesses downtown were left to battle for ourselves, fighting for change by ourselves with different levels of government. Many didn’t endure the take over of downtown by the addicts. No support here for the Chamber of Commerce!


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You raise a good point about the survey findings and how an MVP approach could potentially help address some of the key issues facing Lethbridge businesses.
The workforce challenges, like the difficulty recruiting skilled labor, seem like an area where an MVP could make a real difference. Building a platform that connects employers with qualified candidates and streamlines the hiring process could be a valuable solution. Reducing the administrative hassle and time it takes to fill critical roles is a common pain point, so a minimum viable product example focused on that could be really useful.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x