COMOX VALLEY – A skills shortage and various staffing issues are the most pressing top-of-mind concerns for Comox Valley businesses in 2020, according to the latest MNP Comox Valley Business Leaders Survey released today.

One in four businesses surveyed say dealing with a skills shortage is their “greatest challenge” as they look ahead to the next 12 months. This was more than double the next highest challenge: 9.5 per cent of those surveyed cited uncertainty about the economy as a concern.

The MNP Comox Valley Business Leaders Survey was conducted in partnership by MNP LLP, the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce, Comox Valley Economic Development Society and Cumberland Economic Development. Modelled after similar surveys conducted by MNP in other communities across Canada, the survey provides a snapshot of the local business climate and economic outlook while exploring other local business issues. Results of prior Comox Valley surveys were released in January 2015 and January 2017.

This year’s survey found 2019 brought mixed results for local businesses. About half of businesses reported doing better financially today compared to 12 months ago, while 15 per cent said their business is doing worse. Following a similar pattern, three in 10 businesses hired additional employees last year while one in 10 businesses reduced the number of people they employ.

Among the other key survey findings:

  • 47 per cent of respondents said a lack of skilled labour is limiting their business. The next most common limitation was uncertainty about local economic conditions at 43 per cent.
  • More than half of businesses said housing affordability (57 per cent) and housing availability (56 per cent) is a challenge to attracting and retaining employees. Access to affordable childcare also poses a challenge for three in 10 businesses.
  • Looking ahead to the next five years, 53 per cent of respondents say they plan to grow and expand the business, about three in 10 businesses anticipate business as usual and 14 per cent plan to sell or transition the business to new owners.
  • While the vast majority (82 per cent) of Comox Valley businesses service the local marketplace, nearly one of five businesses surveyed do not provide any products or services to customers in the Valley. 16 per cent of companies export products and services to the United States and 12 per cent to other international markets.
  • 47 percent of respondents said the local government is doing a good or excellent job of creating a good climate for business. Suggestions for improvement include cutting bureaucracy and speeding up approval processes (16 per cent), increasing the supply of housing / affordable housing (9.5 per cent) and lowering taxes (9.5 per cent).
  • Despite the uncertainty about local economic conditions, 61 per cent of respondents expect their businesses to perform better in the next 12 months, and 36 per cent expect to hire additional employees.

The survey reflects the opinions of 200 local business leaders from telephone interviews conducted by a third-party market research firm, PRA Inc., between November 13-27, 2019. The response rate was 24 per cent — a strong result for this type of survey.

Results of the survey were released and discussed at an economic outlook breakfast hosted by the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce on January 23, 2020. A summary of the results presentation is available online at www.MNP.ca/comoxvalleysurvey2020 and also on the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce website.