Town of Okotoks Business Visitation Program
Purpose of the Project
For businesses, it has been a difficult journey. Businesses have suffered greatly from the pandemic’s aftermath, and many are still not back to their pre-pandemic levels. It has become more difficult than ever for enterprises to adjust to the rising costs of conducting business as a result of inflation and rising energy prices.
In 2023, the Okotoks Economic Development team developed a new outreach business retention and expansion program called the Town of Okotoks Business Visitation Program.
Through this initiative, we will be able to better serve businesses by monitoring and recommending improvements to town services, connecting businesses to resources and providing the ability to ‘match-make’ between existing businesses to further support the local economy.
Challenges & Changes Made
The primary challenge was to determine how the BVP could provide highly tailored support to over 1,400 businesses by a small economic development team of three members.
To overcome this challenge outreach begins with an invitation from the Okotoks Economic Development Team. They are in charge of reaching out to potential business clients, or communicating with clients who have sought out the BVP program. They will work with the client to schedule a 1-2 hour meeting with the business owner or senior executive with the company.
In the “visitation” this is where the staff member meets with the client and performs what is known as an “exploratory visit”. During the meeting, the team member takes note of any identify barriers to growth (red flags) or opportunities for growth (green flags).
After the meeting, the data is inputted into the Okotoks Economic Development CRM software that allows staff to track trends, results and make the appropriate business support referrals.
Follow-up occurs to ensure the process has occurred smoothly. This involves discussing the experience with the business client and probing into progress on their barriers to growth. Staff will discuss with the client and determine whether more referrals are valuable, whether the initial issues have been resolved, or if they should check in with the client at a later date.
Target Audience (Demographics)
The Town of Okotoks is made up of 30, 000 residents and the local business community is made up of over 1,492 businesses including 886 storefronts and a 606 home occupations.
Over the course of the year project assisted over 70 small businesses multiple times beginning in 2023. Many of these businesses connected with their BVP liaison over five times during 2023. Of the 70 businesses that Town assisted during the BVP’s operation in 2023, only 3 businesses reportedly closed as of August 2023. Businesses who chose to respond to the Business Satisfaction survey in August of 2023, the vast majority of respondents (84%) were satisfied with Okotoks as a place to own and operate a business and 60% expect higher revenues in the next year compared to the past year.
The Okotoks BVP is a continuous model, designed to interactively assist business clients, but as a by-product it also produces a lot of valuable information that guides economic development activities.