While there is certainly still work to be done, the Town of Hay River has taken an important step toward building a stronger relationship with the local business community in asking them for formalized feedback.
“Really, until we get a variety of answers, we’re at best making an educated guess,” said economic co-ordinator for the Jordan Stackhouse of the survey he presented to council on July 22. “We wanted to confirm or dispel ideas we had as a council or municipality with some concrete data.”
The survey of businesses, distributed by the Hay River Chamber of Commerce earlier this summer, asked questions aimed at gauging the overall satisfaction of the business community, where there were potential issues, and areas in which there could be opportunities for development. Stackhouse said that apart from the content of individual answers, it was important to create a baseline of information against which to measure future results.
“What the survey provided was a set of commonalities in responses that we can look back on in the future so see how we’re doing,” he said.
While only 14 out of approximately 370 businesses responded to the survey, Stackhouse said many of the answers were similar, indicating a relatively shared experience among business owners. He did not think the lack of responses in itself was indicative of anything but people being extremely busy.
As The Hub reported last week, the two main trends emerging from the survey were an emphasis on the quality of life in Hay River, as well as a perception of stagnation that isn’t necessarily true. Stackhouse pointed out that the “boom and bust” mentality of many of the older business owners is being supplanted by those who can see progress in steady, sustained development.
“That memory of the wealth associated with the high point of the boom and bust cycle is not unique to Hay River,” said Stackhouse. “But it was interesting to see that pretty much everyone who has a business in Hay River is doing well, despite this pervasive feeling of waiting for the next big thing.”
Craig Kovatch, co-owner of Superior Audio Video, said he was impressed with the town’s renewed efforts to reach out to businesses, particularly as a relatively young council.
“They’re not even a year old,” he said. “There are a few councillors still learning the ropes but it’s been very positive so far. This administration is one of the most business-friendly we’ve had so far in terms of encouraging the growth and expansion of businesses.”
Mayor Andrew Cassidy said the survey remains a good tool with which to gather ideas about how council can help businesses develop and grow. For instance, he questioned the apparent lack of young businesses between zero and two years of age.
“We can see the trends,” Cassidy said. “There are fewer younger businesses so now we will work with the chamber (of commerce) to see how we can be innovative in asking what they need.”
As for the future of the business survey itself, Stackhouse hopes to have more time and resources to devote to next year’s instalment.
“It would be great if we could get more responses and ideally we would get them one-on-one,” he said. “This information really helps us focus where we need to put our energy.”
— Sarah Ladik