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Survey finds lack of qualified workforce top challenge facing regional business

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

By Chris Marchand

Challenges in accessing a qualified workforce is a prominent theme in a newly released survey that gauges the state of the regional business climate.

Dryden District Chamber of Commerce Manager Gwen Kurz presented some interesting findings from the recently released Business Retention and Expansion Survey (BR+E) to Dryden City Council, Monday.

“From all of that data we determined that there were four key opportunities that we were going to focus on in our strategies and action plans — workforce development, municipal and community services, regional economic development and business support services,” said Kurz.

Completed with financial support from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Northern Heritage Fund, FedNor and the federal government, the project’s aim was to seek a better understanding of the regional business climate, foster the best conditions for growth and inform strategic planning to support business.

The survey interviewed 82 businesses using volunteer data gatherers in Dryden, Ignace and Machin.

Some interesting findings included:

– 43 per cent of businesses surveyed had been in operation for over 26 years;

– 49 per cent identified their market as regional;

– 38 per cent indicated they were considering expanding in the next 18 months;

– 68 per cent reported that the availability of qualified workers was poor;

– 60 per cent reported difficulty with hiring due to lack of appropriate skills or training;

– 72 per cent of businesses rated their municipal property tax rates as ‘poor’;

– 56 per cent indicated their business would benefit from cultural diversity training;

– 73 per cent of businesses indicated they would support a shop local campaign.

Businesses listed the top three local advantages as: (1) location, (2) cost of doing business, and (3) quality of life. Among the disadvantages of doing business in the survey area businesses listed (1) location, (2) municipal government, and (3) workforce.

Kurz says that negatively charged municipal politics was a factor for business owners in their overall outlook.

“The lesson here is that we are all in the cause of economic development together,” said Kurz. “Business is sensitive to the messages coming out of all sectors of government. We need to ensure everybody’s on the same page if we want businesses to thrive and grow in the region.”

The report can be viewed or downloaded in it’s entirety here.

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