Emily Colombo

Emily Colombo

Small business friendly

Many small towns are friendly, but Fort St. James can now say it is also business friendly

Many small towns are friendly, but Fort St. James can now say it is also business friendly.

The Fort is one of 15 finalist communities from across the province for the 2013 Open for Business Awards.

“I was so excited,” said Emily Colombo, economic development officer for the District of Fort St. James, when asked how she reacted to the news Fort was a finalist.

Fort St. James is in the running alongside Valemount, Central Saanich, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Kelowna, Pitt Meadows, Lake Country, Langley, Peachland, Pemberton, Penticton, Rossland, Squamish and Vernon.

The 15 finalists were chosen from a total of 39 municipalities which applied for the awards.

In the Fort St. James submission, the list of programs aimed at encouraging small business in the community is extensive.

Colombo said she was surprised when she filled out the application just how many programs the community has when you put them all down together.

“It becomes a challenge to communicate the different programs to businesses,” she said.

For example, one of the latest programs, a facade improvement program to match 50 per cent of the costs for small business facelifts, has not yet had any uptake in the community, so Colombo is hoping to get the word out and get more businesses on board.

Meant to recognize local governments which are supporting small business, the awards are issued by B.C.’s Small Business Roundtable, which acts as the intermediary between the provincial government and small business in the province.

The winners of the awards will receive $10,000 towards implementing measures to further encourage small business in their communities.

The District is also looking to launch a business retention and expansion program Colombo said.

“I’m hopeful that if we win the funds would go to that program.”

She would also like to use some of the funds towards continuing the role of the downtown activities and marketing coordinator, a job Jessica Rasmussen did over the summer.

While Rasmussen is moving on to a full time position elsewhere, Colombo wants to alter the position slightly to make it more business-oriented and continue it through the winter after the success she saw with it in the summer.

“I’m just so happy with the work that she did,” said Colombo.

The awards will be announced at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual conference in Vancouver on Sept. 19.