Mark Drysdale of the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce said that Ladysmith’s economy has been stable over the past year, and has grown.
Ladysmith was slow to recover from the Great Recession of 2008, however when it did recover, the community “took off”, Drysdale said.
“Half the storefronts had for lease signs on them. Looking back four years ago even, downtown looked like it was for rent. Fast forward four years, and there’s nothing available. Economically, right now the times are good.”
Despite the economic recovery, some challenges persist for Ladysmith businesses. Drysdale said one of the top challenges he hears from business is around access to labour. Businesses are having trouble finding the right people for the right jobs. Drysdale has also heard that taxation changes at the federal and provincial level have been challenging as well.
Drysdale said that the Town of Ladysmith, and Mayor Aaron Stone in particular, have worked hard to improve conditions for small businesses.
“From my perspective, I think they’ve been pretty good… I think Mayor Stone, being a small business owner has tried pretty hard to put economic development support systems in place for the community,” Drysdale said.
The Town and the Chamber are collaborating on an heritage and investment attraction project that will see a new app and website developed to facilitate investment in Ladysmith.
Drysdale is enthusiastic about new developments in Ladysmith and the area, including the Traveller’s Hotel, Raven Point Marina and Inn, the Oyster Bay Development, and the Nanaimo Airport. He’s especially enthusiastic about the Waterfront Plan.
“That waterfront development piece — it’s going to be a long term project — but it’s exciting. That could really put Ladysmith on the map with some of the developments that could potentially go in there,” Drysdale said.
Overall, Drsydale said most business owners are happy to be in Ladysmith. The benefits of operating a small business in Ladysmith far outweigh the challenges that come with it.
With new housing developments popping up around Ladysmith, it’s a signal that the community is setting itself up as a desirable place to relocate to. Drysdale said that over the past few years, the Chamber — which also operates at the Ladysmith visitor’s centre — has seen a large increase in inquires about relocation.
“We’ve had tons and tons of requests about relocation over the past several years,” Drysdale said.
Drysdale predicts that Ladysmith is set up to sustain economic growth over the next couple decades with plenty of opportunity for business development. He believes that the growth can be balanced with all the elements that make Ladysmith special.
The Ladysmith Chamber is hosting two upcoming speakers series events: A Community Update with Mayor Aaron Stone on November 6, and Mastering Your Business for Maximum Profit and Success with Colin Sprake on November 19. RSVP for both events through ladysmithcofc.com