During Monday evening’s Committee of the Whole meeting in Smiths Falls, Julia Crowder, Manager of Tourism and Economic Development, presented the first annual Business Survey Report based on a town-wide survey from 2021.
Crowder developed this survey, which will recur annually, in order to “consistently engage with the business community and obtain feedback and vital information about their operations and sense of community, challenges, and successes.” Crowder explained that “this is a way for the Economic Development department to plan, allocate resources, and support the business community.”
The survey was sent to each business in Smiths Falls, 305 in total. The response rate was 28%, with 84 businesses returning surveys. “We anticipate as we continue to do this, we will receive more and more participation,” Crowder said, “The more surveys you have, the better the data is.”
One of the most exciting data points was the fact that 19 new businesses opened in 2021. [The town] “continues to be prosperous, and people are continuing to invest in Smiths Falls,” Crowder noted. Councilor Jay Brennan was happy to receive the report. “if I was in a neighbouring community and looking at this report to see how things are going in Smiths Falls, I’d be really encouraged. We’ve done our homework, know how to help you, so why not come and open a business here? Good job.”
Councilor Wendy Alford was pleased to read that through the unprecedented challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, “60% of our businesses were able to maintain/grow their profits…the residents of our town did a fabulous job to support local business,and local business owners did an awesome job of pivoting, changing, and being resilient. I know Covid isn’t all gone, but I’d just love to celebrate that we made it through.”
Councilor Chris McGuire replied, “this blew me away. To get 84 responses is incredible; I hope other businesses take note and fill it out next year. As a councilor, we hear when things don’t go well. To see that 90% of these businesses are happy to be doing business in SF; that’s really amazing.”
The Business Survey Report noted that workforce and Covid-related impacts continue to be the biggest challenges for Smiths Falls businesses. Moving through 2022, the Department of Economic Development is focusing on helping businesses transition from survival mode to recovery and sustainability.