In just the first 10 months of 2016, a very encouraging number of 401 new businesses registered with Saanich. This represents nine per cent of the total of 4,599 businesses that were registered in 2015. Of the new registrations, some 254 were small home-based business and 123 were non-home based. Twenty-four were by non-resident contractors seeking work in Saanich. Given the importance of new businesses for our communities and our local economy, this growth is intriguing. To better understand what is happening let’s explore inside the numbers.
For the 254 home-based businesses: the largest categories were building services (78), health and wellness (29), art and entertainment (22), professional services (22), consultant (22), repairs and maintenance (12) and landscaping (10). These were followed by beauty and grooming (6), childcare (6), sales services (6), pet services (5), counselling (5), automotive (5), medical services (5), retail (5), fashion and jewelry (4), transportation (3), and courier services (1). Together these new companies deliver several hundred new jobs. They also provide a diverse in-home, entrepreneurial range. The recent growth by Flytographer, illustrates the possibilities that can emerge from innovative “home-grown” business. Flytographer started as a local home-based business just two years ago. It has reached revenues of $2 million, grown to 40 employees, moved to a 2,000 square foot office space and delivers local photography services to clients in 190 cities worldwide.
For the 123 non-home based businesses; major groupings were professional services (20), food services (15), medical services (13), health and wellness (12), and building services (7). These were followed by repairs and maintenance (5), consultant (4), fashion and jewelry (4), arts and entertainment (3), pet services (3), counsellor (3) and then by automotive, beauty and grooming, courier services, financial services, landscaping, and transportation at two each. Once again we see a good diversity. Typically the larger retail and service companies in the non-home based sector employ some 20 to 100-plus staff. In which case, the number of new jobs created by these 123 companies is considerable.
In addition to new employment, local companies provide vibrancy to communities that can extend far beyond their goods and services. Naturally linked to the community, local businesses can be generous donors to our sports teams, charities, causes and events. This is especially true for family owned businesses. Consequently, it is good to think how we can support them. One thing we can do is shop locally. This support also benefits us. Studies by the American Independent Business Alliance show that for every $100 spent at a local independent merchant, $45 is generated in secondary spending, and that $14 or more is generated when $100 is spent at our big-box stores. Buying online or when out of the region removes the community benefits of shopping locally.
Shopping locally to enable successful local businesses also results in positive impacts on residential taxes. To balance the 2015 budget of $244.8 million, our residential property taxes were increased by 4.23 per cent. Municipal revenues arrive primarily from four sources: residential property taxes, commercial property taxes, service fees and then grants from other governments. Each year, council approves a policy that requires our municipality to continue to pursue revenue diversification to minimize the overall percentage of revenue from residential property taxes. The current ratio of residential to commercial property taxes is roughly 79:21. As well as actively looking for cost savings and efficiencies to reduce pressures on residential taxes, Saanich also seeks to move this ratio to 77:23 or so by encouraging an expanded commercial base. Reducing annual increases in residential taxes helps our residents.
In supporting small and large commercial operations in our district, municipalities have the responsibility to help create the environment for their economic vitality. This is done in part though our land use policies. Facilitating greater residential and commercial density in our villages and corridors provides the customer base local businesses need to be successful. It also includes enabling an increased supply of workplace and family housing. This housing needs to be ample, diverse and affordable. Ideally it would also include rental and market place options.
As we move towards the gift-giving season, let’s give our local businesses, communities and municipalities and taxpayers the real gift of shopping locally.
Fred Haynes is a councillor with the District of Saanich, and chair of the Planning, Transportation and Economic Advisory Committee.