There are now some statistics to match up with the opinions being expressed about the state of the business community in southeast Saskatchewan.
With the release of the latest Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) statistics compiled by the Saskatchewan South East Enterprise Region (SSEER), it appears as if this area of the province could do with a little 4-H assistance.
We're not talking about the gathering of young agricultural enthusiasts, we're referring to the areas of weaknesses outlined in the SSEER report. Our 4-H problems appear to be housing, highways, health care and hands ... among other things that will require some attention if this region is going to prosper and get somewhere close to its potential within the next couple of years.
It has been very evident that housing and skilled labour shortages have held us back for the past four years; now the problem has been documented with a survey of over 200 local industries that include primary, secondary and manufacturing businesses.
These groups point to highways and roadways as being a big stumbling block to future growth, which is something we have been harping on for a while too. Now it seems, our arguments are being backed up with evidence from the people who use them most often.
The primary industrial community gave our local highways the lowest score followed by inadequate health care (probably a reference to physician shortages). The oil and gas sector also jumped on poor highways as their main gripe, followed by lack of community planning. The manufacturing side didn't like the condition of local streets and roads and traffic controls.
What they did like were our resources, our recreational facilities and opportunities and educational facilities and programs.
Regional fire protection and emergency responders also received high marks as did the local trucking services when it came to moving goods.
As one would expect, the southeast sector has a prime geographical situation which worked into the survey as a strength. There were mixed feelings regarding the local business climate. Nearly 40 per cent of the primary companies saw it as positive as did regional and secondary companies but only one per cent of the oil and gas sector saw it as positive and 14 per cent of the value added manufacturing group saw it as positive. One thing they all agreed on though, was that a lack of affordable housing was a significant deterrent. The oil and gas and manufacturing groups reported the lack of skilled labour was a problem at 13 and 24 per cent respectively.
It would serve our provincial and regional administrative teams well to carefully study this BRE report so that action plans can be devised that will build on the positives found within the numbers and opinions while taking some groundbreaking steps on addressing the pressing needs.
What is required now is some innovative thinking and funding to address the problem areas that have been spelled out.
The problems are very clear and begging for solutions.
We just hope that governing bodies don't get bogged down in process and red tape at this crucial time when swift action is required. We don't want to see further opportunities for growth being blown by bureaucratic excuses and stagnation.