Sooke businesses had a good run this year.
A booming real estate market also led to more than $16 million in building permits issued this year.
Still, what is 2017’s business climate going to look like in Sooke and the future?
While recent improvements to Sooke’s downtown core certainly make it a more inviting place to be, it’s the town’s real estate market that has really helped some businesses bloom, such as Sooke Home Hardware, said owner Scott Gertsma.
“I don’t want to see our [real estate] marketplace cool off in Victoria, West Shore and Sooke. It’s driving all the growth in this community right now,” he said.
Like any business ecosystem, one thing affects the other, for better or worse.
“[Plumbers and electricians] are so busy right now, and with that business comes customers wanting to buy better quality items, like instead of a $15 coffee pot, they buy a $25 coffee pot … it all trickles down,” Gertsma said, adding it’s been a good year for his business this year.
As such, Gertsma feels positive about 2017, though he hopes the District of Sooke could improve its ability for approving rezoning applications and building permits.
“The building permit would be the top of my list. When it takes six weeks to have a building permit issued for a house in this community, that’s too long, when our neighbour to the east of us can issue that building permit in seven days,” he said, hoping municipal efficiency is better in the new year.
Landing enough building space (commercial or residential) has been a constant challenge for Sooke, which could continue to be an issue for retail expansion, said Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce president Kerry Cavers.
“Next year for retail, I don’t see much growth, because there’s not much [land and building] inventory. It’s something the chamber wants to work with the district,” Cavers said, adding despite the lack of available space, she was surprised how many new retail businesses opened this year.
“I think that’s a really positive indicator of where business in Sooke is going, that more people are getting in the game and they want to see Sooke develop and people filling in gaps in services that aren’t here,” she said.
Overall though, Cavers hopes to create a hub-type environment for business owners to engage with one another and possibly even help each other out.
“We have some amazing people in Sooke with a huge heart, and if we could just start working together, I think we can change the climate and make it much more welcoming to bring business here, to visit here.”