Unemployment is down and lumber prices are up, according to the First Quarter Economic Indicators Report city council received at its April 23 meeting.
Unemployment in the Cariboo was at 6.7 per cent in March, compared to 7.5 per cent in March 2012. The provincial unemployment rate was 7.3 per cent in March 2012 and 7 per cent in March 2013. Lumber prices averaged more than $400 per thousand board feet in the first quarter of 2013, compared to just under $300 in the same period in 2012.
The report contains economic statistics from the city of Williams Lake, the provincial and federal governments (unemployment rate) and the Northern BC Real Estate Board.
It provides a snapshot of the first quarter of 2013, compared to the first quarters of previous years.
In addition, the report notes that economic forecasts for B.C. estimate moderate growth in 2013,
but forest products and mining are noted as growth sectors. U.S. housing starts increased to over one million in March, the highest level in five years. This increased demand along with tighter supply has driven lumber prices to over $400 per 1,000 board feet, a high not seen since 2007.
These figures bode well for Williams Lake. Locally, building permit applications being processed for industrial and commercial developments are anticipated to result in mid 2013 permit value levels rising approximately 50 per cent over the first half of 2012 values.
The city is completing initiatives in 2013 with the goal of making city hall more business-friendly. As a start, the city will be looking at best practice illustrations from the award winning communities of the BC Small Business Roundtable’s Small Business Friendly Community Award program.
Examples include streamlining local regulations, highlighting the importance of local business sectors to the community, and working with business groups to help identify gaps and complimentary business opportunities.
Promoting existing municipal incentives will also be one step in efforts to enhance the city’s business friendliness. For example, increasing communications about the city’s two existing Revitalization Tax Exemptions programs will be one part of the project.
These tax exemption programs offer property owners in the downtown core and north end industrial area an opportunity to offset assessment based municipal tax increases that may result from capital investments to buildings and property.
Consulting with local business associations, such as the Chamber of Commerce who have identified working with the city to enhance this part of the city’s business environment, will also be a key part of ongoing business friendly efforts.