By Councillor Jen Comer, Town of Creston
Last Thursday, we received a significant new public health order from Dr. Bonnie Henry. With that, I want to underscore just how important it is that we keep our community safe, not just for today, but so we can be in a position to come back even stronger after this pandemic is over. It’s our individual actions that will collectively impact what the next few weeks, months and years will look like for our community.
In my Advance article last May, I highlighted how the Economic Action Partnership (EAP) has been supporting economic development in our community over the past couple of years. Today, I want to share more actions taken by our local government to support our business community.
Over the past 10 years, town council has been directly supporting economic development with property tax relief programs. The first major bylaw to support business development was the 2011 Revitalization Tax Exemption for Hotels, which later expanded to all commercial businesses.
To date, we have been able to provide direct municipal tax relief to multiple businesses equalling $220,500. Council voted last week to continue this program. Any business with over $50,000 in building or renovation costs may be eligible for municipal tax relief, relative to the increase on their property assessment.
Over the summer, the EAP and JuiceFM ran the “Show Local Love” social media campaign, where locals won fabulous prizes each week from participating local businesses. It was a huge success and a lot of fun for participants and businesses. It’s back, but with a holiday twist celebrating the season of giving! Follow our Facebook and Instagram pages at @economicactionpartnership and use the hashtag #showlocallovebc.
During Small Business Week in October, the EAP, along with community partner volunteers, took to the streets (safely) to talk with over 130 local businesses. The challenges our business community has faced cannot be understated. These included unexpected costs, complete losses of revenue for months, supply chain disruptions, staffing shortages, and pivoting to find new markets.
That said, we were pleasantly surprised to hear many of them reported faring well, despite the challenges of operating during these times. We heard comments that the lack of cross-border shopping boosted their sales, and that local and regional visitors were enjoying our wineries, our restaurants, and our Farmers’ Market over the summer. Shopping local is one of the most important things any of us can do right now to support our community.
The Creston Tourism Society has just celebrated its one year anniversary! The Municipal Regional District Tax (MRDT) — AKA Hotel Tax — is now coming in. In 2019, the MRDT was endorsed by local accommodators, and it passed with the majority of them voting in favour. This 2 per cent charge paid by hotel guests provides the Society with sustainable funding, which is used to market our Valley; attracting tourism to the region in the long-term and encouraging locals to explore our backyard!
The federal and provincial governments have released millions of dollars in stimulus funding for “shovel ready” projects that will provide lasting economic impacts. The EAP, along with local governments and community organizations, have come together quickly to apply for a number of these grants. Time will tell if we are successful recipients of the funding, but we have our fingers crossed!
Collaboratively, our local governments and community partners are working together to create a strong foundation for economic development and recovery. It is in this spirit that I hope everyone in our valley will take the necessary actions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in our community.
Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing. Putting this simple mantra into action in our everyday lives is critical to keeping our community safe, our businesses operating and our healthcare system functioning. We are all in this together, and together we will be able to come back stronger as a community.