Delta is best in the Lower Mainland when it comes to welcoming new businesses, a new report shows.
A recent report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) looked at the cost of “red-tape” on new businesses in 20 municipalities across the province. Although the study largely focused on Metro Vancouver, it also included Prince George, Kelowna and Victoria.
“Regulatory burdens weigh heavily on the owners of small and medium-sized businesses in British Columbia,” the report reads. “Understanding where and how these red tape problems exist is an important step to addressing the root of the problem.”
The study looked at how the municipality helps businesses in three key areas: access to information, quality of information and their regulatory framework.
Delta came in second overall, with a mark of 81 per cent. It was beat out by the City of Kelowna, which came in at number one with 86 per cent.
“It’s many small things that add up to helping business get off the ground,” Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said.
In the study, Delta received an almost perfect mark for the entrepreneurs’ ability to access information. The “user friendliness of their website,” the report reads, along with the multi-functional MyCity online service centre made it simple for future business owners to find what they need.
Pawan Gill is one of the entrepreneurs who started his business in Delta back in 2015. He and partner Amraj Johal started the engineering consulting business Terra Nobis Consulting in a basement in Cloverdale, and decided to move to Delta in August of 2015.
“They were pretty straightforward with us, and it was intuitive at the same time,” Gill said. “It was an easy process for sure.”
Where Delta fell behind Kelowna was in the quality of information and the regulatory framework.
As part of the study, the CFIB sent emails to city staff posing as potential business people. In the three emails, sent in November and December of 2017, the CFIB asked about permits, licensing, bylaws, business initiatives and whether there was any other information they should know before starting a business in the city.
Although Delta’s response time was two days or less for all three emails, the quality of the responses varied. One was described as having a great response to business license questions, while another was described as having an unsatisfactory response. There were also no business-specific resources given, and bylaw information was negligible. Only once was the responder available for more discussion.
“It is not perfect, obviously,” Jackson said. “There’s always room for improvement no matter what happens. In the meantime, I think we work very hard to try and accommodate business.”
For Gill, setting up his business largely involved talking with the Delta Chamber of Commerce rather than the municipality. He only communicated with Delta to get the necessary paperwork and licences for his business.
“We didn’t really engage them too much,” he said. “Apart from our requirements that we needed to have a business licence … that was essentially it.”
According to the study, Delta’s regulatory framework fell far behind Kelowna, which received a perfect mark. However, it was still second-best of the surveyed municipalities, as building licence delays were two to four weeks and retail business licence costs were $110.
“From the time they decide to come into the hall to the time they open their business, we really try to shorten that chain, if you will,” Jackson said.
The mobile business licence, which allows Delta businesses to operate in 16 other municipalities throughout the Lower Mainland, was noted as a particular success for the city.
For Gill, having the ability to work in other municipalities around the Lower Mainland was key.
“It was just ticking a box at the end of it, because if your business does run in other municipalities, you just need to get that inter-municipal licence and then you’re good to go,” he said.
Gill and Johal are part of a large group of businesses that operate in Delta. In 2017, the city issued 6,341 business licences, including 595 inter-municipal licences. This is a small decrease from 2016, when Delta issued 6,511 business licences, including 541 Metro West inter-municipal licenses and 109 Fraser Valley inter-municipal licences.
Delays for getting those permits to have a business were slightly longer than some other municipalities (between four to six weeks), but overall the experience was quick, something Jackson has worked hard to achieve during her time as mayor.
“It’s money,” she said. “It’s money to people especially if you’re beginning a new venture.”
“Time is money, and we try to shorten that time so business can get up and running,” she continued. “We try to help them wherever possible and open any doors we can to make the path a little smoother and a little shorter.”