The ten candidates running for Houston councillor faced a variety of questions at the recent All Candidates.
One big topic up for discussion was how to boost the economy and support local business.
What can be done to support and expand business in Houston?
Tim Anderson: Just promoting our businesses and what they have to offer. If people realize what they can get here, they’d buy here. Also focus on the importance of buying local, people have to understand their social responsibilities to our community. I plan to promote that and encourage people to stay here and shop in Houston.
Colleen Ettinger: We have a lot of home based businesses that need to be supported and promoted more so that people know they are out there. There are a lot of businesses that people don’t realize are in town, so we need to get the word out more. Small businesses are good for the community.
Rick Lundrigan: I think it’s very important to promote our community. Council needs to work closely with the Chamber, they are the specialists in that and they have a good grasp on what can and cannot work. We need to work on our policies to make things more attractive for business. We need to encourage new development of business as well.
Toni McKilligan: What immediately comes to my mind is the home based businesses in town. There is a lot more here then a lot of people are actually aware of, and it would be really nice to draw some of those home based businesses out. It’s unfortunate that many feel that they can’t open a storefront and make themselves more visible, but I think we can find ways to help them do that. We also have expertise at the Chamber office, and we need to keep supporting them.
Dawn Potvin: From a council perspective as well, its important to get members in council to sit on the community economic development boards and work closely with the Chamber. They have many initiatives like Small Town Love and things they are doing to promote our community as a whole, as well as individual businesses. It’s about economic development and promoting your own community, that makes it easy for others to be attracted to it as well. On council, you have to be on the pulse of the business owners and the home based businesses in town.
Nick Powell: It’s important to be involved in the Chamber of Commerce, they have the pulse of the businesses in town. Regulation and policies from the outside looking in, it’s hard to know what those are. On a side note, little things I think we can do better is prompt our real estate prices in town. We have some of the best real estate prices from Prince George to Prince Rupert and I don’t think it does as much it should to promote residency and promote the business opportunities here.
John Siebenga: Curb appeal. The District has done a lot of work in promoting and coming up with plans to promote Houston and make it more appealing to people driving through. I think that’s one of the issues we’re going to have to work on, is making Houston a much better place to stop and shop. We’ve got to shop local.
Tom Stringfellow: People like to have choice, but I think we need to support local, and spend our dollars in Houston stores. People spend a lot to get a store up and running so people need to spend local to keep those businesses up and running. Se we need to promote Houston and spend locally.
Craig Stoltenberg: I was involved in a business start up a few years ago and one of the big things we ran into was that there was no industrial land for sale in Houston. At that time most of it was tied up by Canfor and HFP. For Houston to attract new business, the District has to lobby to make land more available, and get development moving so people aren’t forced to lay out so much money before they can start their business. That would attract business.
Jonathan Van Barneveld: As part of the closure we worked on an economic action plan, and throughout the last term we’ve worked really hard to modify some of our bylaws, allowing for things that were not allowed previously in Houston, such as multi-use or mobile vending. One thing we touched on in the economic plan and we’re going to have to lobby greatly more is the changes to Highway 16. To increase the curb appeal and also to draw people into the town. People won’t have a problem investing if they feel they’re going to get a return on their investment. So if you have a well established and nice looking town, the beautification aspect really helps to spur on people. With home based businesses, we can start teasing them out of their homes to set up a storefronts and retail. Economic development is a very slow process but I think that we’ve been able to make inroads, especially with the Chamber having the economic development office.
How will you approach economic diversification within this community?
Craig Stoltenberg: We have to promote Houston as a place to start a business. We have everything here, access to power, and rail and road access. We have lots of land but currently none of it is available to purchase a piece, it’s all tied up with landowners just sitting on it. The council needs to try and work with them and the community to try and develop an industrial park and that will kick start it.
It’s hard to see people spend money in Smithers mainly due to our grocery store. How can we improve on that to help our dollars stay here?
Tim Anderson: The grocery store is a point of contention and what I tell people is to buy what you can here and in Super Value, and if you can’t get it, then you’re forced to buy outside. If you can get it in Houston, buy Houston. I think there needs to be more dialogue with the manager of Super Value.
Tom Stringfellow: For a lot of seniors, if they had the opportunity to get out and shop in the local stores, I’m sure they’d want to spend their money locally. But a lot of them can’t get out or don’t have a vehicle or drive a motorized wheelchair, so it’s difficult to get around town. So for the seniors, if we have affordable transit, then we can get them out to spend their dollars locally too.