Business Retention + Expansion Program offers insights to local professional service firms
In December 2019, the Town of Orangeville’s Economic Development & Culture office completed a year-long Business Retention + Expansion (BR+E) program with the local professional, scientific and technical (PST) sector. A key recommendation from the 2018 Economic Development Strategy, the BR+E program aimed to help the Town better understand the issues, concerns, and opportunities that exist for local businesses. The PST sector includes a variety of professional services – accounting, engineering, architecture, design, consulting, and legal – and was selected for its significance to the Town’s overall business landscape.
The program started with the completion of comprehensive business surveys with 36 of Orangeville’s PST businesses. Survey results were aggregated and analyzed to gain an understanding of the current business climate, identify common issues, and to determine opportunities for support.
Results showed that Orangeville’s PST sector is well-established in the community, with 86% of businesses locally owned and operated. An overwhelming majority – 98% – rated their impression of the community as a place to do business as good to excellent. Many businesses are experiencing growth. Sixty-two percent expect their sales to increase in the next year and 47% have expansion plans that will lead to an increased need for qualified employees, suitable space, and specialized training. According to these businesses, Orangeville’s small-town appeal and central location is well-complemented by its available amenities. Ninety-eight percent said that the quality of life in Orangeville is good to excellent, demonstrating that the Town offers a positive setting, both professionally and personally, for many businesses.
The most significant challenge identified by PST businesses was the availability of skilled workers, followed by the ability to attract new employees. Fifty-seven percent of businesses said they have difficulty hiring. A competitive environment, coupled with the need for specialized skills, experience and education for many available positions in this sector makes it difficult to find local talent. Business awareness of the resources and supports offered by local community organizations was also identified as lacking and increased promotion of available business programs will be undertaken.
Some of the challenges identified in the BR+E can be addressed by existing initiatives. The Orangeville & Area Job Fair is regularly hosted by the Economic Development & Culture office and the most recent event, held in October 2019, included participation by some local PST firms. Numerous training and business support opportunities are also in place, including business and succession planning assistance offered by the Orangeville & Area SBEC and free online training available through Lynda.com. Other actions to support the PST sector will be launched in the upcoming year.