Conception Bay South mayor-elect Terry French (left) speaks with Conception Bay Area Chamber of Commerce executive director John Smith following a meet-and-greet with municipal election candidates on Tuesday. Both say the need for growth in the town’s business community is key for expanding the tax base.
©Kenn Oliver/The Telegram
The town of Conception Bay South has had no problem attracting residents to the bedroom community in recent years.
Census information released in 2016 indicates the town has experienced 5.4 per cent growth since 2011, more than five times the provincial average.
But where C.B.S. has struggled is in attracting new business to the community.
“We have a great tax base when it comes to residential, but we have a very small tax base when it comes to business,” says mayor-elect Terry French.
“I know they’ve done some work by establishing a gateway and they’ve gotten some Crown land, but it’s been very stagnant over the last number of years.”
At a meet-and-greet event with council candidates Tuesday at the Manuels River Interpretation Centre, the Conception Bay Area Chamber of Commerce endured its own struggle in attracting commercial interest. Just five residents and not one member of the business community turned out for the event.
Executive director John Smith chalks it up to the noon to 2 p.m. timing of the session, and figures more will turn out to the next event set for Monday, Sept. 18 at Queen Elizabeth High School.
Smith says the pace of business growth in C.B.S. is good, but there’s always more room for more, and he hopes the incoming council will be as supportive as the outgoing crew.
“There’s a tourism aspect we could grow here a little more,” Smith said. “It’s good, we’ve got a lot of great sites, but we want people to stay out here. So a few more (bed and breakfasts), some more options for people to stay overnight and spend their money here.”
Smith doesn’t just want to see more tourists stick around as a result of greater commercial growth, but residents, too.
“We have over 25,000 people here. We shouldn’t have to be always going out to town or somewhere else for our jobs, we should be able to maintain a good flow of income from people actually working and living here,” he says.
Where both French and Smith agree is that infrastructure deficiencies are an impediment to attracting new commercial tenants to the town.
In French’s mind, it’s cyclical; business won’t come unless the infrastructure is in place, but the revenue from a stronger commercial tax base is what will help pay for it.
“It’s a vicious circle, one that the new council certainly has to tackle,” says French.
The incoming mayor has some thoughts on how to bring them in and make C.B.S. a place businesses will want to set up shop, but he’s going to wait until council is elected on Sept. 26 before discussing them publicly.
“I have some ideas of ways of moving it forward, but it’s more about reaching out to the community and getting input from the business community rather than the people sitting around the council chamber.”