Volunteer surveyors with the Business Walk initiative wrap up a hard day's work at the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce offices.

Volunteer surveyors with the Business Walk initiative wrap up a hard day's work at the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce offices.

Business Walk aims to take economic snapshot of Rupert

Volunteers ask area businesses about where they find themselves as the project partners gain an understanding of each's needs and wants

An army of volunteers took to the streets this past Tuesday morning to complete Prince Rupert’s first official ‘Business Walk’ survey.

Starting in Sacramento, CA and first hitting B.C. in the Okanagan in 2012, the Business Walk program aims to paint a picture, or take a snapshot, of the economic activity happening around Prince Rupert through volunteers darkening doorways with shops and outlets around town.

The Prince Rupert Business Walk Survey was coordinated by the City of Prince Rupert, Community Futures, the province (Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour) and the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce.

“We go out and target businesses with a bunch of questions on their turf to learn a little bit more about what’s happening in the business community,” said Paul Vendittelli, economic development officer (EDO) with the city.

“It’s just to get a better idea of what’s going on in the business climate so that we can put some policies, bylaws and services in.”

A three-page survey was distributed to each participant (approximately 100 in all), asking six questions to owners and managers, such as if the business is growing, remaining steady or shrinking, what is most enjoyable about conducting business in Prince Rupert (location, clientele, labour availability, etc…), what some challenges are (staffing, training, parking, access to capital), how many employees are employed and how many are expected to be employed in three years, and how the city, Chamber of Commerce and Community Futures can support each business.

“Retaining or attracting staff – that’s an initiative that we’re working on to try and get some attention and retention in the area,” said the EDO.

The Business Walk volunteers hit multiple areas of the community, including Seal Cove, the auto-mall area, the industrial site, downtown, Rupert Square Mall and First Avenue.

The initiative is one of the first developed by the city’s Small Business Advisory Committee since it was formed a few months ago by city Coun. Blair Mirau, who first brought the committee idea to council last year.

An informal similar project was undertaken around the same time last year, with 60 businesses contacted, but the 2017 iteration has brought in more partnerships and volunteers to help out.

Already, the city is seeing encouraging signs from its raw data, as business licences have spiked from 765 in 2011 to 1,199 right now.

“We’re hoping that’s a bit of an indicator,” said Vendittelli.

The Business Walk partners will now compile the data they’ve collected and present it in approximately six weeks to council and the community.