Antisocial behaviour, homelessness not the biggest concern for Vernon businesses: survey - InfoNews

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Antisocial behaviour, homelessness not the biggest concern for Vernon businesses: survey

November 26, 2019 - 6:00 PM

While anti-social behaviour and the negative effects associated with the street entrenched population are often thought to be the biggest challenge facing local businesses, a recent survey lists finding staff as the most pressing concern.

The 2019 Vernon Business Walks Survey found 35 per cent of the businesses surveyed listed finding employees as the biggest challenge. The survey was an initiative organized by the City of Vernon and enrolled volunteers from the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures, the Downtown Vernon Association and Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan to assist in conducting the survey.

The survey, which took place Oct. 2 and surveyed 164 Vernon businesses out of a total of approximately 1,500 in the city, saw a significant jump in the number of businesses struggling to find employees over 2017 when the survey was last conducted.

"We've heard a lot of challenges on hiring and retaining staff, that's come up year after year," Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce general manager Dione Chambers said.

Chambers said the issue of hiring and retaining employees affects a wide range of skill sets, from minimum wage jobs to highly skilled professionals. The high cost of living and lack of affordable housing all contributed to businesses' difficulties in hiring and retaining employees.

Community safety and homelessness were listed as the second biggest challenge for business, up slightly from 2017, although lower than in 2016. The report states these concerns were more prominent among downtown businesses.

The survey found 48 per cent of businesses reported business was either good or increasing, down slightly from 2017 when 51 per cent of businesses reported business was good.

The number of businesses that reported business was fair and steady, or good and increasing, remained on par with 2017 at 88 per cent.

With a survey sample size of roughly just over 10 per cent of Vernon businesses, Chambers said it was difficult to generalize on how businesses were doing. She also said business owners would not be open if business was not doing well.

Eleven per cent of businesses surveyed said a lack of customers was its biggest challenge, up from just a few per cent in 2017. The report said business owners downtown reported fewer people in the downtown area shopping, while businesses located in the mall also perceived a lack of customers as a challenge.

- This story was updated 8:55 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 27 to clarify the survey was an run by the City of Vernon.

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