With more than 4,000 registered small businesses in Saanich, the commercial sector is anything but small in the role it plays in the community.
“Saanich uses several approaches to encourage the success of these important components of our sustainable communities and economy,” said Saanich Coun. Fred Haynes, who chairs the Planning Transportation and Economic Development Committee.
“Understanding the zoning and the context history of the varied areas across Saanich allows our staff to advise new businesses to where best to open up shop.”
Andy Laidlaw, Saanich’s chief administrative officer, said support for small business is a priority for the district, which has identified strategic locations for development.
“One of the things council has said is they would like to develop the commercial areas around the town centres. So the town centres become the hub, with the idea of trying to have people live and work and play in the same area,” said Laidlaw, adding the small business would gain the support of the neighbourhood.
Haynes listed examples of those distinct neighbourhoods, such as the Douglas Corridor, Shelbourne Valley, Tuscany Village and Tillicum, saying the official community plan as well as local area plans focus the growth of density into specific corridors and centres.
“This helps provide some certainty of current market place and a guide to important future demographic changes that can impact customer types and numbers,” said Haynes.
And Laidlaw said providing certainty is the best thing the district can do for prospective developers during the planning process.
“Because when people are looking at sites, if they need to go through an extensive rezoning process, that takes a long time,” said Laidlaw, adding knowing the parking requirements and details of the official community plan can provide some certainty for potential investors.
Saanich is home to more than 2,500 home-based businesses, with the sector representing a growing area of products, incomes and employment.
“Some 1,627 of our home business are inter-municipal, indicating that these Saanich small business owners draw upon a region-wide customer base,” said Haynes.
He said nearly 1,000 are regular home businesses, providing services and products mainly within Saanich, with a group of about 50 businesses dedicated to home crafts.
“We can see and enjoy the products of these at the local markets and craft fairs across Saanich, particularly in the Christmas season.”
Agricultural small businesses are another important segment of the local economy, with some of the most popular expanding to a regional and national market.
“Programs such as Localize, which highlights sustainable, local foods in our grocery stores, have encouraged their success,” said Haynes. “Other agri-businesses provide ‘farm share’ programs providing farm gate access to local foods.”
Haynes also notes the 620 Saanich business classified under professional, scientific and technology, featuring several that have graduated from the University of Victoria campus.
“Here the Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurs helps start-up companies move from ideas to products and income and include novel approaches to food, communications, education and social media,” he said.
Laidlaw said the district is making a concerted effort to reach out to small business and is interested in building a bridge to help the district understand their needs.
Haynes said it’s clear that small business provides a key economic engine for Saanich and the entire Capital Region.
“As we can see, small businesses in Saanich are a thriving and varied part of what makes it a great place to live work and play,” said Haynes.