Chair, Catherine AckermanThe Importance of Growth in the Tri-Cities

At the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, one of our main objectives is to promote the Tri-Cities is the best place to live, work, and play. Livable region rankings are publicized frequently and measure key elements that lead to the trifecta of sustainability.

Various factors that contribute to livability include green space, schools, transportation, and employment creation. Repeatedly, access to employment ranks high on the list of what contributes to a region’s attractiveness – or, their live, work, and play scale.

Our ability to provide employment in the Tri-Cities is one of the driving forces behind the economic growth of our community. Our employers play a significant role in the wellness of the lives of their employees and of our community. We are fortunate to have a generous business community that fuels itself through philanthropy. The Tri-Cities has a heart for community support, giving back, and building essential community organizations.

Employment has a significant relationship to housing. Specifically, when there is a lack of housing it directly impacts employment opportunities and sustainability. We are seeing development throughout the Tri-Cities, with density emerging along the Skytrain line. This density provides the necessary and convenient access to
shopping, recreation, and jobs. Although there are challenges, I am proud to say the Tri-Cities is moving in the right direction to building a positive correlation between our housing and employment opportunities with the variety of housing options provided to our citizens and workers.

Adequate transportation is essential to a high livability status. It directly affects access to jobs in the Tri-Cities and enables our employers to tap into a larger workforce. The introduction of the Evergreen extension and additional bus routes has been a welcome addition. Maximizing connections to talent is crucial in a time where our businesses are experiencing an unemployment rate of 4.7%, one of the most challenging labour markets in over a decade.

Increased housing developments and transportation positively affect our employers and economy but increased taxation on business will not. The provincial government recently announced the Employers’ Health Tax (EHT), taking effect in 2019 and phasing out MSP in 2020. Companies with annual payrolls over $500,000, will pay a 0.98 per cent tax.  The tax then increases incrementally. Our largest employers will be hit the hardest as they will pay a 1.95 per cent tax on payrolls over $1.5 million. With some of our businesses facing the prospect of a “double whammy”, paying both MSP premiums and the new tax for a year, there is an expected and significant cost to BC employers close to $2 billion.

We are very concerned that the impact here in the Tri-Cities will discourage employers from increasing hiring and wages and the Chamber will provide further advocacy on this and other topics that affect the livability of the Tri-Cities. At this time, we are very pleased to welcome Alex King, our new Public Policy Advisor to the team. He will help us better advocate on issues to make the Tri-Cities the best place to live, work, and play.

 

Catherine Ackerman
Chair, 2018