Castlegar looking to join inter-community business license program

New business license would allow contractors to purchase a license that is good for Castlegar, Nelson, Creston, Rossland and Kaslo.

The City of Castlegar is one step closer to joining other West Kootenay municipalities in a new inter-community business license initiative.

The two-year pilot project will offer businesses that have a physical location or main base for their business in one municipality, but carry on work in neighbouring municipalities, the opportunity to purchase a special business license that would allow them to work in all the participating municipalities. Primarily, target participants include contractors, caterers and similar mobile businesses. Right now a business owner must purchase a license in each of the communities in which they want to work. Currently Castlegar, Nelson, Creston, Rossland and Kaslo have all signed on to participate in the program.

The Castlegar Chamber of Commerce is supporting the initiative. “I think it is an excellent idea,” said chamber executive director Tammy Verigin-Burk.

Verigin-Burk sees the reduced licensing cost for small businesses operating in multiple locations as very beneficial. “It is really important for them to be able to go and do their work in different towns and not have any red tape and any sort of barriers for them to be able to go and do the work that is necessary.

The project has been in development since early 2014 and included a study done by the province. “A lot of people, including myself, have been working on this for a really long time,” explained Verigin-Burk. “It started out at the West Kootenay Economic Development table.”

The project shows a new level of cooperation between the communities. “Not only will it be productive for our local contractors, but I believe it is really important for the partnership that is being created between all of the cities and towns on this project,” said Verigin-Burk. “It is historical and something I believe is a real positive step for us working collaboratively.”

Verigin-Burk also explained that most contractors already do work outside of Castlegar throughout the West Kootenay area. “We need to be careful that people aren’t assuming that because there are regional licenses that people from other towns will come and work in Castlegar,” she said. “In the West Kootenay, most contractors work in each town, so nothing is going to change, it is just going to make it a lot easier for the actual contractors themselves.”

Verigin-Burk reports that small business owners in the area turn down work in neighbouring cities due to licensing difficulties and expenses, another reason the chamber is in favour of the idea.

From the City’s perspective, the program is a win. According to Phil Markin, director of development services, it will mean, “Less administrative burden and cost to the communities. It is more of a simplified process.” The provincial analysis showed that similar programs across the province have resulted in an increase in business license compliance, which may end up resulting in a small revenue increase for participating municipalities.

City council has passed three readings of the bylaw that will put the plan into action. The next step is a public hearing, which will take place before the next council meeting on Monday, Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Castlegar Community Forum. Following that, council will need to pass adoption of the bylaw.

The program is scheduled to go into effect in January 2017.