Community Business Pulse is a new Kootenay Employment Services project.

Community Business Pulse is a new Kootenay Employment Services project.

Program by Creston’s Kootenay Employment Services identifying business needs and concerns

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Businesses between Yahk and Riondel will soon be able to participate in a business retention and expansion (BRE) project.

The Community Business Pulse initiative is designed to stimulate economic development and growth by assisting existing businesses. Kootenay Employment Services, the Town of Creston, local Regional District of Central Kootenay areas, Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures Central Kootenay, College of the Rockies, Columbia Basin Trust and the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute are working together to implement the project.

“Understanding and helping our existing businesses is the primary objective of the project,” said Kootenay Employment Services Society (KES) project co-ordinator Eden Yesh.

“Before considering this project we talked to community leaders in several other Columbia Basin and Boundary communities that have used this approach to business retention and expansion,” said KES executive director Hugh Grant. “They were very positive about the results.”

Before a community can assist existing businesses it must identify the businesses’ needs, concerns and growth opportunities. Through the Community Business Pulse initiative, trained researchers visit businesses and gather information. The local leaders running this program then work to address identified issues and opportunities.

Selkirk College’s Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute (RDI) is supporting communities in BRE implementation through the provision of training for BRE researchers, support materials, access to an online regional data management system, and data analysis and report writing support.

“The RDI’s mandate is to support informed decision making through the provision of timely and relevant information and applied research,” said Dr. Terri MacDonald, RDI regional innovation chair in rural economic development. “With the valuable information collected through community-driven business retention and expansion projects in hand, decision makers and economic development practitioners in the region will be well positioned to provide targeted support to local businesses and to take collective action to improve the overall business climate in the region.”

“A key aspect of this project is confidentiality,” said Yesh. “We do not publish information on individual businesses. The project is very careful about this confidentiality issue.”

The information gathered from the visits is compiled and analyzed by the RDI. KES and the stakeholder committee review key findings and recommendations and set into motion a plan for followup actions.

“One of the reasons for the popularity of a business retention and expansion project is that it not only supports long range planning for the community but also yields some short-range tangible results,” said Yesh.

All businesses located between Yahk and Riondel are encouraged to contact KES to book a confidential interview with a trained researcher between Dec. 21 and Feb. 29. Call Eden Yesh at 250-428-5655 or email Erika Woker at ew@kes.bc.ca.

—KOOTENAY EMPLOYMENT SERVICES