Ninety per cent of respondents to a survey that collected 203 responses in this region say Parksville Qualicum Beach needs to attract more businesses.
Oceanside Initiatives conducted the survey in late November through early January. The group is a partnership of municipalities and organizations in Parksville, Qualicum and the northern part of the Regional District of Nanaimo. The survey received responses from a cross-section of residents representing all adult age groups, income levels and residential areas within the Oceanside region. Respondents were asked to rank their agreement with a series of statements.
Almost all respondents (92.5 per cent or 188) agreed or strongly agreed that it’s important to have more jobs from a broader range of sectors. Almost as many (89.6 per cent or 182) said the region needs to attract more businesses.
“It’s gratifying to see such a strong consensus and understanding that our region needs to attract more businesses across a range of sectors — businesses that can offer better-paying jobs than many of those we have now,” said Evelyn Clark, president and CEO of the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is a member of Oceanside Initiatives, which plans a marketing campaign to attract entrepreneurs to the region. Asked if they would support such a campaign, 81.6 per cent (166) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed.
“It’s good to know people support attracting entrepreneurs, because community support is key to making newcomers feel welcome in our area,” said Kim Burden, executive director of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce. “The survey also shows we have some work to do to connect the dots between economic issues and the quality of life we want to maintain in this region.”
Burden said he was referring to sections of the survey that showed less consensus about the idea that more jobs in a broader range of sectors creates a sustainable economy. For example, the largest response to the statement that Oceanside has a strong, sustainable economy was a neutral rating — from just over 39 per cent of respondents — with another six per cent saying they didn’t know or had no opinion. Thirty-five per cent disagreed with the statement while close to 20 per cent agreed with it.
“I think the message for Oceanside Initiatives is that we need to create more awareness about the direct link between the number and quality of jobs in the region and the current and long-term health of our local economy,” said Burden.
The survey report is being distributed to the Oceanside Initiative members. Meanwhile, the marketing campaign will be rolled out this spring.
The survey also indicated 84 per cent of respondents get information about the region from The Parksville Qualicum Beach News, 22 points higher than its nearest competitor.
Survey results can be viewed at www.parksvillechamber.com.
Parksville Mayor Chris Burger said the survey results could be used as a tool for the city.
“I think it’s really important as the economy shifts and changes that we get a clear understanding of how that’s occurring and that allows us to position ourselves to take better advantage,” said Burger.
The Oceanside Initiatives group said it did an economic assessment (available online) of the region that found it had below-average employment income (the second lowest among nine similarly-sized B.C. communities), the highest housing costs on Vancouver Island outside Victoria, and a municipal tax ratio where 75 per cent of taxes come from residents and 25 per cent come from businesses. In most B.C. communities, the tax ratio is 60 per cent from residents, 40 per cent from businesses.
The group said the assessment recommended the Oceanside region concentrate on attracting lifestyle entrepreneurs because they are flexible and make location decisions based on lifestyle factors such as the natural environment, school system, cost of living and recreation opportunities.
— NEWS Staff/Oceanside Initiatives