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Next step in Alberni business survey crucial
Local business owners are cautiously optimistic about the city-chamber of commerce business retention survey.
The survey results were unveiled on Dec. 2. The initiative was carried out by a tripartite group including the city, the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and Community Futures.
Approximately 175 out of 721 licensed businesses were canvassed over six months as part of the $12,000 initiative.
Among the findings was attitudes within the community top the list of barriers to business growth in the Alberni Valley.
Getting a second highway into town topped the list of needs.
The survey and top 10 list of things to tackle were to be distributed to the business community for feedback.
The survey results takes stock of what the city has and what is needed, and it represents a starting point, Uptown Merchants’ Association spokesperson Gary Robertson said.
“It’s nice to have a plan but unless you’re doing something at the street level then it doesn’t matter in the end,” he said.
“This is the study before the plan.”
Surveyors left no stone unturned, Robertson said.
Prioritizing how to tackle the top 10 list is going to take some stick-handling.
“Each issue is going to take a different group of people to tackle it,” he said. “As long as the city under-stands that it’s going to have to work with everyone to address all those issues.”
A potential choke-point could be the jockeying for what exactly takes priority. Uptown merchants may have different ideas about what is a priority than North Port merchants.
“Each organization is going to have to decide what the priorities are to them,” Robertson said. “And people have to work with the city and not scream at them, then things get done.”
Business incentives are fine, but the city needs to be equitable in offering business incentives, said Aaron Vissia, who owns a financial business on Johnston Road in North Port.
“Of late, the city has chosen to direct its business retention and development efforts almost exclusively to the ‘Uptown’ area,” Vissia said.
“This singular focus undermines the historical effort to create one strong city rather than two distinct areas.”
Fixing the Johnston Road corridor, where millions of tourists funnel through, should be a priority.
Overgrown trees are lifting sidewalks and have become a serious tripping hazard and landscaping is littered and neglected, he said.
“If efforts are not made to make it attractive why would anyone want to venture any further?” Vissia said.
“Millions travel this route each year and I believe that enhancements on lower Johnston Road have just as much value as those on upper Third Avenue, yet communication continues to fall on deaf ears.”
Vissia was encouraged to start a Johnston Road merchant group that could raise issues with the city in solidarity. But that may just muddy the waters.
“It seems a shame that one needs to form a lobby group to get any action. Frankly, two groups with opposing voices will only create more issues and even less will get done,” he said.
The Business Retention and Expansion Survey listed a ‘Top 10 To Tackle List’
1 Attitudes Listed by merchants as potentially the most significant obstacle to growth.
2 Beautification Beautify from the entrance of the community and throughout.
3 Business succession Business owners are older and near the end of their careers yet have no succession plan.
4 Business training Electronic media and customer service training to attract and retain customers.
5 Employee attraction Local professional services have identified employee recruitment as a problem.
6 Harbour and Victoria Quay improve-ments Parking, retail, event offerings, aesthetics, better signage and consistent hours of operation.
7 Community marketing and promotion Leaders identified to improve Port Alberni’s brand. The leader would make the community look good, and tell the world how great Port Alberni is.
8 North Port/South Port Merchants want all areas of town to be given equal consideration.
9 Second highway A second entrance in and out of town is viewed as ideal to helping all aspects of the community.
10 Taxation/tax incentives Monitor and use them to support business.