Salmon Arm has hit a growth spurt in recent years, and while that growth is a great sign for the community it also creates challenges for those hoping to start a brick-and-mortar business in the community.
In 2017, Salmon Arm topped the list for growth in B.C. municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more, with 9.3 per cent population growth according to provincial statistics. Again in 2018 Salmon Arm was in the top five fastest growing cities with nearly three per cent growth overall.
While these figures show Salmon Arm is an attractive destination, realtor Jim Grieve says slow development of additional commercial or industrial properties in the area has led to a slump in available space for new businesses.
“Typically I would do a search for commercial places for lease in the Shuswap, from Revelstoke to the North Shore, and you would have 100 places come up, but today there is 20; our inventory is at a low point,” he says, noting there is even less available space in the Salmon Arm industrial park.
One challenge he identifies is meeting the needs of a business owner or developer looking for a specific size or location.
“If you look at the spaces we have available, we don’t have one that is say five or six thousand square feet. So, where does someone who needs that kind of space set up? They would have to build new,” he says.
While Salmon Arm has grown steadily for the past couple of years, Grieve points out the market is still not quite big enough to justify the costs of development for smaller businesses.
“On a new building the offset costs for development will be around $10 per square foot, so there you are going from $20 rent per square foot to $30, and unless you are a big player, small businesses can’t afford it,” he says.
While this may put prospective business owners in a tricky position, Grieve says these figures do indeed come with a silver lining.
“It’s not a bad thing for our community, in fact it’s a good thing for the community,” he says. “It shows that people really want to be here and that is great. If someone comes to town looking at developing, and they see that everything is full, they look at that and say alright this is great, now where do I have to build to get involved in this?”
He also notes that the commercial property market is often more fickle than the residential market, as the space and location needs of a business are usually more specific for buyers.
“Even though I am getting a lot of calls from people looking for commercial property, it’s different than the residential market.” he says. “I could halve the price of a commercial property, that doesn’t mean anyone is going to come along and buy it unless they have plans to put a building up there and the property works for their needs.”