A growing population of young families, proximity to the airport and the university and the natural beauty of the Okanagan are all helping to drive business in Lake Country, which is heading towards slow and steady business growth in the coming years.
That’s the word from Ryan Roycroft, Lake Country’s economic development manager, who has been on the job for the past 18 months as the DLC’s first ever employee in charge of economic development.
“There are a lot of exciting opportunities in the area,” said Roycroft, in an interview with the Lake Country Calendar. “We’re seeing residential development coming back. We’re seeing good interest in commercial development and we have a municipality and a council looking to be supportive.”
The trend in Lake Country’s population is pointing towards more young people and young families moving into the area and according to Roycroft that’s music to the ears of businesses who may be looking at setting up shop in Lake Country.
“Businesses love that (demographic) because those are the sort of customers that you can have for decades,” he said. “We’re starting to see a lot of the younger, educated demographic in Lake Country. These are people that are consumers and as their families grow the amount of money they are spending also increases.”
The backbone of the business community in Lake Country is small business. On average the district hands out between 760 to 780 business licenses each year, everything from home-based businesses, to larger stores and online businesses. The vast majority have less than 10 employees and the district has about 150 store-front operations.
With 40 per cent of its land located in the Agriculture Land Reserve, the agriculture industry is the biggest employer led by Jealous Fruits, a cherry producer, said Roycroft.
To make itself more attractive to potential businesses looking to start-up in Lake Country, the district has streamlined some of the processes of applying for licenses and working through the bureaucracy over the past couple of years. Roycroft says it’s all about making things as easy as possible for business operators.
“A lot of what we focussed on initially was making the district a competitive place to do business,” he said. “We really tried to improve our approval times for things like business licenses. When you can shave weeks off of a timeline for getting a license, those are important weeks where a business-person can be making money. We’re also providing businesses with better data if they are looking to locate in Lake Country. They love to know things like demogrpahics and growth projections.”
Roycroft said business walks in the district are also keeping local politicians and the district staff in tune with issues local businesses are having and allowing the DLC to iron out those issues.
In the end Lake Country has plenty working in its favour in terms of attracting more business to the area as well as helping current businesses survive and thrive.
“The underlying reasons why people are locating in the Okanagan and in Lake Country in particular are you have a fantastic airport and you have a world class unviersity and those are the big drivers and are likely to expand in the future,” said Roycroft. “The challenge for Lake Country is to create a favourable environment for business and that means everything from a competitive regulatory environment to just being a great place to live.”