February 21st, 2020

Business Beat: Preliminary business data is in

By Sandra Blyth on September 25, 2019.

Here’s a surprise. City and region are not pointing to local government taxes as their No. 1 issue.

At least, that’s one impression gained from the first 160 responses to the BREWD business survey launched online last week supporting Business Retention, Expansion and Workforce Development. It will be interesting to see if that holds true as more and more businesses take part in the survey.

I’m hoping this early view of the input offers a lens on what some businesses are thinking and encourages others to make sure their voice is heard before the survey closes on Oct. 4.

Here’s what the responses show so far.

Local government taxes and spending aren’t surfacing thus far as a top issue. Just as many respondents are satisfied with the taxes they pay as those who are dissatisfied. The same goes for local government spending priorities; just as many people are satisfied compared to those who aren’t, and as many again are neutral.

Housing and health care are positives. More than 55% are happy with local housing costs, and 65% with local health care facilities

Future sales appear promising. Just about 63% of responding businesses expect sales to go up in the next two years, 32% expect them to stay the same, and only 2% think they will go down.

The job pool seems to have increased. Over a third of responding businesses have increased employees and only 18% decreased.

Technical skill training appears to be needed. Almost half of responding employers say the number one reason they have a hard time filling position is a lack of technical skills.

Tourism and hospitality services are showing as having low impact on business. Respondents say that tourism programs and events have no impact, positive or negative, on business.

Key sectors of the economy are silent. Oil and gas, transportation and warehousing, and agriculture have a very low response rate so far.

Businesses in the region need to speak up. Community response rates are strong in Medicine Hat, but we need to hear more from Redcliff, Bow Island, Cypress County and County of Forty Mile.

Data being compiled over the coming weeks, including a workforce survey and interviews with key employers, will bring an improved understanding of our economy and a means to benchmark progress into the future. When all the data is in, we’ll gather business and community leaders to create targets for future investments to improve the business environment.

Be sure your voice is heard now. Take the survey at investsoutheastalberta.ca.

Sandra Blyth is an economic development professional with the City’s Economic Development and Land Department which is now serving the business community under the brand of Invest Medicine Hat 2.0.

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