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Barriers still slowing business down, Chamber says

The majority of Cranbrook businesses find that there are still barriers to business, a Chamber survey found.

The majority of Cranbrook businesses find that there are still barriers to business, a Chamber survey found.

Last week, the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce released its Phase II report summarizing the results of the Barriers to Business survey recently undertaken by a sample of its members.

Many of the 17 businesses surveyed found difficulties dealing with the city, with an average of 3.2 out of 10 for overall experience.

The report includes written summaries of the responses to survey questions, along with numeric assessments of the clarity of processes, timing and costs for doing business in the community.

"Rather than focusing on individual experiences, we looked for common themes; areas where experiences were positive or negative," said Dave Butler, Chamber president. "The survey results show us there's lots of work to do yet to ensure we have a welcoming atmosphere for business."

The survey is a key part of the Chamber’s on-going efforts to improve the business climate in Cranbrook and surrounding area. It’s a follow-up to an initial survey and report conducted by the Chamber in 2012 that identified a number of concerns regarding the local business climate.

The businesses were surveyed in November and December of 2013 and the businesses noted that they have a diverse interaction with the city, including building new businesses, discussing conceptual designs and providing services to the city under contract.

Businesses said they dealt with mostly the Engineering and Planning departments of the city, while a few dealt with the fire department, Corporate Services and Public Works.

The majority of respondents expressed frustration with dealing with the city, finding it to be a negative experience overall due to inconsistencies, delays and lack of responsiveness. Some businesses suggested that they felt they succeeded only because they knew who to talk to to get things done.

Many businesses said they would not work with the city again if they didn’t have to.

Butler noted that members of the Chamber executive recently met with Mayor Wayne Stetski and senior city staff to review the results of the survey and discuss ways for the city to improve the experience for new and existing businesses. Butler said the City provided a progress report on the changes it’s making to improve the environment for business.

Butler said it is encouraging that the mayor and senior staff recognize the challenge and are initiating changes based on the Chamber’s suggestions.  For example, Butler noted changes to the way City departments communicate with each other, training its staff toward an enhanced customer service philosophy, as well as creating greater clarity in processes, timing and costs for business-related permits.

Butler said the Chamber will keep working with the City, recognizing that change doesn’t happen overnight.

“We’re looking for members of the business community to let us know what they think of what the City is doing to improve the situation,” he said. “What’s missing from the City’s list? Are you seeing a difference?”

The Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business in this area.

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