PRESCOTT – The Town of Prescott’s Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) process passed a significant milestone on its way to completion this past month. On July 19th, 30 business owners, community members, and Town officials came together at Fort Wellington National Historic Site to hear, and weigh in on, the results of the 66 interviews conducted with local business owners. Attendees were enthusiastic about the success of the process so far, and the amount of buy-in and support the BR+E has had from not only business owners but the entire community.
In very positive news for the Town of Prescott, the crowd gathered heard that of the 66 businesses from all 14 industries (sectors) represented in Prescott, 38% owners of these businesses indicated that they will expand their businesses in the next 18 months. These expansions will lead to either increased staff or increased space and, in many cases, both. In addition, the vast majority, 75% of business owners, forecasted an increase in sales over the next year. This optimism was in large part the result of planned expansion of services, products or markets, marketing/advertising, and other additions to the business that the business is actively pursuing and not on hope alone.
As the Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) outlines, business retention and expansion is extremely important because of the amount of jobs – up to 90% in some communities – that are created by existing businesses. Prescott is no exception in terms of local job creation. Over the past three years, existing businesses have created 123 jobs in the Town and, if their workforce projections stand, local businesses will create another 51 jobs in the next 18 months.
In terms of supports needed, business owners indicated that they would welcome more community and municipal support and a common concern was the vacancy rate in the downtown RiverWalk District. Prescott business owners are collectively very invested in the potential of the Town and look forward to a rebranding of the Town that will highlight all of the many assets they outlined in their survey answers. Local business owners identified that Prescott is the ideal geographic and aesthetic location for business, that it has a low cost structure business, and that the Town itself is full of kind and friendly people. Areas for improvement included the perception of a poor economic environment, and that business owners struggle with a lack of skilled labour, low population, and resistance to change/innovation.
These issues are balanced by the very highly rated factors of doing business in this community that business owners detailed including quality of life, parks and open spaces, police services and fire services. Local business resources including Grenville Community Futures Development Corporation, CSE Consulting, and the Leeds and Grenville Small Business Enterprise Centre also received very high praise from business owners. Some business owners were encouraged by what they deemed a more pro-business approach at the municipal level and as one business owner stated, “I really like the area/community – if we can boost the Town itself. Some smart things have been going on and I really do believe that as you get these businesses, the community will grow. It doesn’t need to be a retirement community.”
The conclusion of this process comes this fall at the first ever Town of Prescott Economic Development Summit where the rollout of the BR+E Action Plan will take place. This Action Plan will synthesize all of the recommendations gathered through the interviews and the community consultations into specific actions that the Town will take in collaboration with other stakeholders to create the most business-friendly environment possible for the Town of Prescott based on the results of the process. Mayor Todd had this to say about the process thus far, “I want to thank Jackie, all of the Business Retention and Expansion project volunteers who put so much time into interviewing members of the business community in Prescott, and of course everyone who attended our very successful Community Action Planning Retreat hosted by Fort Wellington, ” said Mayor Brett Todd. “We have compiled a great deal of solid data that will be of tremendous value as we move forward taking action on economic development to bring jobs and investment into the Fort Town.”
For more information on the BR+E data results and possible actions to result from the surveys, please visit the Town of Prescott’s website under Business Retention and Expansion or contact Jackie Schoemaker Holmes, Economic Development Officer, at 613-925-2812, ext. 6221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.