Traffic congestion, parking issues worry Oakville businesses

September 26, 2013 - All News

Staff Report
The movement of people and goods — as well as parking — are top issues for members of the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, according to its advocacy survey.
The survey, conducted primarily online, built on a similar survey done by the Chamber in 2011.
The latest version was done in part to probe the views of members on transportation issues as the province’s Big Move transportation plan gathers steam.
“The results show that Oakville continues to be an excellent place to live, work and raise a family,” said Chamber Chair Julia Hanna. “However, respondents are concerned about the ability of the transportation infrastructure to keep up to economic growth, with transportation being the biggest factor in location decisions.
“This speaks to the importance of moving ahead with the Big Move project, which we fully support,” Hanna added.
According to the survey, transportation (flagged by 17 per cent of respondents) is the single biggest factor impacting respondents’ choice of doing business in Oakville.
This is followed closely by municipal by-laws (16 per cent), business taxes (16 per cent), attracting and retaining skilled workforces (13 per cent) and business licensing/permits (13 per cent).
In addition, the results show that increasing costs (32 per cent), gridlock (18 per cent) and increasing competition (16 per cent) are the top three most-pressing challenges facing Oakville businesses over the coming five to ten years.
The Chamber has been heavily involved in transportation issues over the last year. In April 2013, it organized a roundtable with Metrolinx and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on the Big Move — the province’s $50 billion, long-term plan for transportation infrastructure — while also participating in the Western GTA Summit on transportation issues.
The survey also found that parking remains one of the biggest irritants for respondents, as clearly shown in verbatim responses to the survey.
“Parking is a longstanding issue for many of our members, particularly for downtown retailers who are also concerned about rising rents,” said Hanna.
“There are many opinions on how to solve these parking issues, and we look forward to ongoing discussions on this with the Downtown BIA and the town.”
Other survey findings:
• 82 per cent of respondents would advise a colleague to set up a business in Oakville and/or relocate here (exact same response in 2011).
• 49 per cent of respondents said there are barriers to doing business in Oakville, up slightly from 47 per cent in 2011.
• 75 per cent of respondents live in Oakville or elsewhere in Halton (new question in 2013).
But overall, a broad sense of economic optimism forms the backdrop to the survey’s results, with 56 per cent of respondents saying they are “very” or “somewhat” likely to expand in 2013 versus 54 per cent indicating the same sentiment in 2011.
At the same time, of those planning to expand, 57 per cent of respondents will hire staff and expand their facilities.
The positive implications of this rise (ie increased job and wealth creation and economic spinoffs) are slightly moderated by an increase in those saying they are “very” or “somewhat” unlikely to expand — going from 27 per cent in 2011 to 32 per cent in 2013.
However, if the latter finding is taken as a proxy for the status quo as opposed to decline, as the survey also suggests, then the overall economic picture remains positive.
“Our members are increasingly optimistic about economic conditions over the coming few years,” asserted Hanna. “This is great news, as job growth and business expansions have widespread benefits.
“However, growth puts added pressure on transportation infrastructure,” Hanna observed. “So we plan to remain very active on transportation on behalf of our members.”
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