The current BR&E project is a continuation of a study first conducted in 2001 by then BR&E intern Crystal Angus.
A comparative analysis provided in the report released yesterday show that while some things changed quite a bit in seven years, other issues persisted.
In 2001, 54 local businesses were surveyed, compared to 86 this time around.
Since 2001, there has been a nine percent decrease in the number of businesses with less than 10 employees. There has been a two percent decrease in the number of business owners who are involved in the day-to-day operations of their business.
As well, the number of full-time employees has increased by 12 percent since 2001. However, the number of respondents in 2008 was higher than 2001.
The number of part-time employees has decreased by two percent while the number of temporary employees has decreased by 10 percent since 2001.
Since 2001, there has been a nine percent decrease in the number of businesses that stated they would have an increase in staff over the next two years.
Factors affecting an increase in staff were the same in 2001 and 2008: sales, market share and new products, and management.
The percentage of businesses having difficulty finding qualified staff has stayed the same since 2001.
When asked the advantages of doing business in Fort Frances, the top answer given in both 2001 and 2008 was quality of life.
The number of businesses planning to relocate stayed the same in 2001 and 2008 (five). In 2008, six businesses are “exploring the idea.” Reasons for relocation have stayed the same since 2001: inadequate space and lack of opportunities.
The number of businesses wanting to expand has decreased by nine percent since 2001 while those having expansion difficulties has increased by nine percent, citing financing and labour availability as reasons.
When asked to rate their satisfaction with community services, businesses in both 2001 and 2008 were satisfied with fire prevention, recreational facilities, and schools and dissatisfied with public transit, medical services, and street repairs.
In regards to sales, there has been a 29 percent decrease in the number of sales being made to the United States since 2001.
Identification of customer needs remained the same as 2001, being informal customer contact, customer complaints, and sales calls. As well, high taxes were identified as the number-one barrier to business development in Fort Frances in both surveys.
As far as telecommunications, businesses both in 2001 and 2008 listed lack of infrastructure and price as reasons for not implementing the technology they wanted.
Between 2001 and 2008, there has been a five percent decrease in the number of businesses that own their facility. Since 2001, 11 more businesses are having their lease renewed month to month, but only one anticipated difficulties with their lease renewal.
In 2001, the number-one factor for businesses to remain competitive was customer service, and it remained the same in 2008. Other factors high on the list both years included energy costs, availability of telecommunication services, and workforce development.
Both in 2001 and 2008, suggested new businesses for the community included another industry, night club, more college courses, wood manufacturing, family dining, more restaurants, theatre, more retail stores, and recreational facilities.