• Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce Business & Community Issues Survey

    The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce asked our members to identify the issues that most affect their businesses. This is done annually so that we can effectively advocate on behalf of our members.

    This survey is aimed at determining the burning issues you feel the chamber should be pursuing.

    Business Issues

    Issues impacting business
    Economic conditions, social issues/community safety, and workforce are the top three issues impacting member businesses.

    Other issues listed include: broadband access (1%), decreasing revenue and income (1%), chances in consumer behaviour (1%), carbon tax (1%).

    Impacts of these issues
    Increased cost of doing business, increased cost to customers, and business owner/manager assuming more responsibilities are the top three impacts to business given.

    Other impacts listed include: project delays (1%), closing brick and mortar and moving solely to e-commerce (1%).

    The majority (65.7%) of respondents see no opportunity to leverage these issues to innovate, pivot their business, or create new potential markets. Of those who saw these opportunities, many intended to explore expansion to online sales or other digital expansions.

    While inflation in Canada has held below 3% since the beginning of 2024, continuing to the economic conditions leading to increased costs and decreased revenue for our members, and advocating for affordability measures will remain important.

    A blue and red circle with white textDescription automatically generatedWorkforce

    Approximately half (48.5%) of members are having problems with recruitment for specific skills or positions.

    Specifically, members indicated that they are having issues hiring for skilled trades, accounting and bookkeeping, and unskilled positions.

    Only 26.5% of members rate the availability of workers in the region as good, meanwhile 27.5% rate the quality of workers in our region as highly. Finally, only 20.5% of members view the workers in our region as stable.

    More than three-quarters of members told us that the number of unfilled positions within their company are stable, indicating an inability to put the right people in the right positions. Nearly 20% indicated that their number of unfilled positions are increasing.

    Two thirds of members do not anticipate a significant change in the make-up of their workforce. 80.1% of members expect to be hiring new, or replacing current, employees in the next year. Nearly all invest in employee training, with new job skills, proficiency, and remedial skills training as the top three areas of employee training listed.

    Workforce availability and reliability appear to be major problems for our members that will need to be addressed in order to keep our region competitive.

    Economic Conditions

    64.1% of Chamber members feel positively about the overall health of their business. This is in line with our earlier findings in the 2023 Brighter Together Survey which saw 66% of Lethbridge businesses expressing a favourable outlook.

    This outlook changes somewhat when shifting to the overall health of Lethbridge’s business climate, where only 50.5% of members have a positive outlook. The majority of other businesses are unsure.

    How likely are you to expand your business in Lethbridge over the next 2 years?
    Of surveyed members, 33% indicated that they are likely to expand their business in the next two years, with approximately 5% saying that they are likely to close or relocate.

    While members are optimistic about their own businesses, they appear to be less so about the region as a whole.

    Social Issues and Community Safety

    Social issues and community safety have been issues identified by our membership for several years. While typically the mandate of a chamber of commerce might not have a strong focus on social issues, increasingly modern business owners hold these as important to address. Tied to this is community safety, a social issue which is having a direct impact on member businesses.
    In the last year, members have experienced
    Members are feeling a direct financial impact of community safety issues, whether in the form of lost revenue from break-ins or thefts, increased investments in security or staff training, or decreased foot traffic.

    The majority (61%) of members feel that government supports would address these issues.

    Affordable housing as a means of reducing homelessness is supported by 85.9% of members, with 74.7% in support of permanent supportive housing. However, there is no consensus as to where such developments should be located. The general attitude of “not in my backyard” seems strong within our membership, and is an issue that we should work to address, as it is one that we have advocated to the provincial and federal governments to work on as well.

    Municipal Red Tape

    Municipal Red Tape negatively impacting growth or competitiveness
    The top three issues of municipal red tape that members indicated were impacting their growth or competitiveness are municipal utilities, business tax/mill rate, and permitting fees.

    Of the 25% of responding members who had undergone a renovation or expansion project requiring a permit in the last year, timelines and delays; overall cost; bylaw complexity; subjectivity of guidelines; and uncertainty were listed as the top barriers to those projects.

    Simplified, streamlined bylaws, particularly when it comes to zoning, may alleviate a number of the issues being faced by our members.

    COVID19 Recovery

    Less than half (47%) of members accessed CEBA or RRRF funding, with 89.9% of those who did saying that they were able to meet the January 18, 2024 repayment deadline for loan forgiveness. This would indicate that concerns about CEBA/RRRF repayments were overblown, and research by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Business Data Lab indicating that fewer than 20% of CEBA/RRRF loan recipients would not be able to repay was correct.

    One of the most positive findings of the Business & Community Issues Survey was that 66.7% of members are in the same, or better financial position as they were prior to COVID.

    Even more encouraging is the 6.9% of members whose businesses did not exist prior to the pandemic.

    Advocacy at the Chamber

    Top Three Municipal Issues
    Community safety/social issues was overwhelmingly the top issue municipally for our members. Property taxes, and attraction and retention of skilled labour followed. We should continue to advocate to our municipal government, as well as federally and provincially, to address the issue of safety.

    Top Three Provincial Issues
    Not unexpectedly, affordability was the number one provincial issue for our members and one that we should continue to leverage our strong relationship with the Minister of Affordability and Utilities to advocate for. Access to skilled labour, and the provincial debt/deficit were also major concerns.

    Top Three Federal Issues
    Carbon pricing was listed as the number one federal issue for our members, with federal debt/deficit as a close second. Immigration reform and the TFW program are also of concern to our members.

    Who Took Our Survey?

    The 2024 Business & Community Issues Survey was filled out by 103 member businesses, representing 14% of total Chamber membership.

    Business Size:
    Employees: Survey Membership
    1-15 62.7% 72.8%
    15-50 22.6% 16.3%
    51-99 5.9% 3.7%
    100+ 8.8% 4.5%
    NOTE: 2.6% of Chamber membership listed as “Connected”, “Investor” or Honorary with no employee count.

    Businesses came from all areas of Lethbridge, with 33.7% from downtown, 17.8% from the south side, 17.8% from the north side, 11.9% from the industrial park, 4% from the west side, 2% from the WT Hill area, and 3% in Lethbridge County. 6% indicated that they have operations in multiple areas of the city.

    We had respondents representing 18 industry groups, with construction/real estate representing 20.6%, professional services 17.6%, retail 10.8%, not-for-profit 12.7%.