The City of Colwood and WestShore Chamber of Commerce sat down with local businesses for the first in-person prosperity roundtable meeting with the goal of gathering feedback on how best to attract and retain businesses.
More than 20 businesses were represented at the June 22 meeting, which followed a series of virtual meetings that have been organized since the pandemic started and have focused on a variety of topics aimed at guiding the city’s support for local businesses during challenging economic times.
City of Colwood spokesperson Sandra Russell said a variety of areas for improvement were brought up during the latest meeting, but a lot of positive feedback on what the city has been doing thus far also came about.
“Colwood has a lot of new commercial spaces opening up soon, we need to look at how to attract the right mix of businesses to the city as we grow,” said Russell. “We are facing some challenging economic times right now with interest rates rising, and businesses are facing that even as we come out of COVID, so it is important for the city to understand their needs to help them thrive.”
With those challenges and needs in mind, Russell said the roundtable featured a lot of talk surrounding space and the need for more of it, including office space opportunities for primarily home-based businesses, event and gathering space, and even services space to help attract employees to the community, such as arts and culture and learning spaces.
Other key points that came up included talk about the need for more affordable housing to attract more potential workers from outside the province, which businesses said has been challenging given the difficulty their potential new employees would face finding a home. Another topic of discussion was around the need to improve cell service in parts of the community, especially the more rural areas heading toward Metchosin, as a lack of connectivity can be a hamper for businesses.
“Most of the things that came up are on the city’s radar and we are working on,” said Russell. “But it was a great opportunity to reinforce with the business owners that these improvements are in the works, and have them participate in shaping them as much as possible.”
WestShore Chamber of Commerce executive director Julie Lawlor said the chamber was happy to partner with the city to host these meetings and is looking forward to continuing with them in the future.
“We have been working together for a while now with the aim of supporting businesses in Colwood, and welcome the direct feedback from business owners at this kind of an event to grow and shape our programs and services,” she said.
More meetings are in the works, and while they are targeted toward businesses specifically, the public is welcome to contribute ideas. Those interested in finding out more about the sessions, or participating in one, are encouraged to stay tuned to colwood.ca for the latest information.