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Westminster may be a friendly place for businesses, as there are about 300 applications for new licenses every year, according to the city's economic resilience office. A new survey presented …
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Westminster may be a friendly place for businesses, as there are about 300 applications for new licenses every year, according to the city's economic resilience office. A new survey presented to councilors Aug. 15 seems to support that idea.
Stephanie Troller, economic resilience manager, presented the findings of a city business survey at the Aug. 15 study session. In the survey, 2,900 businesses were queried and 9% responded.
Findings show that owners and managers remain satisfied with the city, homelessness continues to be a problem and the industry base is broad.
In fact, of the survey respondents, the top five industries were professional services at 17%, retail trade at 14%, health care at 13%, personal services at 12% and accommodations and/or food trade at 8%.
City Councilor Bruce Baker asked how many employees each of the businesses had, and Troller said 95% of all of Westminster’s businesses have five or fewer employees.
Things to improve
“The survey clearly indicated that (businesses) would like communications through a quarterly printed newsletter,” Troller said.
In response, the city will launch a newsletter in the next quarter. City councilor Lindsey Emmons suggested the city should answer questions and concerns the businesses wrote in the survey through the newsletter.
Two of the top concerns included the cost of doing business and updating ordinances.
Respondents were also asked to rate support services on a scale of excellent, adequate, deficient, non-existent, non-applicable and no opinion.
Fire protection, law enforcement and parks, trails and open space all received high marks. Water and sewer rates, on-street parking options, stormwater services and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure all came out low.
The number one challenge to businesses is finding qualified employees.
“I think the Great Resignation has taken a toll across all industries,” Troller said.
Others included access to affordable housing, access to capital and transportation options. Access to restaurants to do business or have lunch is also an issue.
Concerns about the city's transportation infrastructure tie in with some of the greatest problems businesses are facing. 87% said their employees drive alone. Only 14% take transit and 11% bike.
The survey found that 46% of respondents said that homelessness is somewhat of a concern in Westminster, while 25% said it’s a major problem.
For issues impacting their workforce, 61% of respondents said the lack of affordable rental properties, 43% said there is an inadequate housing supply in general, another 43% said difficulty recruiting employees due to housing costs and 40% noted the long commutes to access affordable options.
Not all their employees are housed either. The survey said that 3% of respondents said they have one employee experiencing homelessness and 2% they have two. Another 8% said they have one employee at risk of becoming homeless, 5% have two, 1% said five and 4% have ten.
Even with some unsheltered workers, 53% said they would not be interested in partnering to develop affordable housing.
From Westminster’s Community Survey, 81% of respondents said they own a home and 18% rent. Over 50% of residents say they spend over 30% of their monthly household income on housing, with 10% spending 50%-75% of income on housing.
Awareness of programs
According to the survey, few city employers know about Westminster’s business programs.
“For eight of the ten Westminster programs, a quarter to more than a third of the respondents were aware of the programs. Awareness was lowest for Westminster’s electronic permit and project review through eTRAKIT (17%) and corporate wellness for businesses (16%),” the survey reads.
Even when businesses were aware, fewer than half used them.
“For those who were aware of the programs, usage ranged from 41% for electronic permitting and project review (eTRAKIT) to 2% for corporate wellness. Usage of eTRAKIT is noteworthy in that while only 17% of the respondents are aware of the service, 4% have used the service,” the survey reads.
All the programs can be found on the city’s website. They are small business capital improvement grants, business legacy awards/recognition, small business scholarship grants, job training incentives grants, city and business growth training and more.
Connecting with City Council
Businesses want to talk with and learn from City Council, and they want to do that through town hall meetings.
In response to the question “How would you like to stay connected with the City and City Council,” town halls came in at 47%.
City Councilor Sarah Nurmela took it a step further and suggested doing a business-only town hall meeting since they are usually welcome to everyone.
As well, 55% of respondents want the city to promote Westminster as a place to live, work, play and visit, 49% want the city to advocate for local businesses and 48% want business retention services.
City Councilor Bruce Baker asked how often people come into the city and ask to start a business.
“Everyday,” Troller said.
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