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OPINION: Does the City of North Bay really value its local businesses?

In a small city such as North Bay, we should be encouraged by our municipal leaders to support local businesses, as they lead by example and continue to focus on building overall community pride
north bay gateway to opportunity population sign turl 2016

By Andrea and Nathan Pascoe, North Bay.

The City of North Bay prides itself in supporting local businesses, and are frequently encouraging people to come to North Bay to invest.

Over the past few years, North Bay citizens have watched the local economy suffer from large industries shutting down or relocating, to long-time small businesses closing. The population has decreased, the downtown is struggling, local employers continue to lay off and youth outmigration is on the rise. There is no time like the present to be supporting our local small businesses. Businesses that are operated by entrepreneurs of all ages, who provide jobs for residents and like many, have families to support and taxes to pay. 

Community pride is at its strongest when residents feel respected, businesses are encouraged to flourish and “supporting local” is ingrained in the fabric of our community’s values and beliefs. Pride is fostered through the enjoyment of community assets, buying local products and using local services. It's one of the many joys of being a part of a small community. 

In a small city such as North Bay, we should be encouraged by our municipal leaders to support local businesses, as they lead by example and continue to focus on building overall community pride. By doing so, the money is reinvested back into our community through jobs, spending, municipal taxes and overall business growth. Our downtown flourishes, visitors are drawn to the city, our community assets continue to grow and our residents are proud of the place they call home.

Does the City of North Bay really value its local businesses? Do they foster a business – friendly environment? Does the City of North Bay have an organizational culture deeply rooted in entrepreneurship? Is local entrepreneurship and business growth truly a priority?

In a recent newspaper article about the Moe-Ze-On Inn demolition, City Councillor Derek Shogren said "it's disappointing there were no local bids and that the city will be paying an out-of-town firm for the work."

If this really is disappointing, then why has the City of North Bay selected an out-of-town firm for the Summer in the Park inflatable rentals, when there is a reputable local company who supplied a bid to offer the same service?

We own Pascoe Rentals & Events, an inflatable rental company. We have been in operation since 2014 and have a variety of inflatables for all ages. We are certified by TSSA (Technical Standards & Safety Authority) and have provided inflatables for events in surrounding municipalities, along with many local companies, organizations, fundraisers and sports teams. We proudly donate to local charities and sponsor numerous events.

We were very excited when the RFP for inflatable rentals at Summer in the Park was released. We put a lot of time and thought into our proposal and were enthusiastic about the potential to be a part of our local summer festival. It was disappointing to receive news that the City of North Bay had decided to pay an out-of-town company to do the work.  

In a Bay Today article in October 2015, titled "North Bay one of the worst places to start and grow a business says report", Deputy Mayor Sheldon Forgette said he's not surprised at the city's ranking, "We have a lot of work to do in North Bay. It shows that we need to start focusing even more on economic development." 

In a November 2016 article in Bay Today titled "North Bay great for business, but still needs improvements", Mayor Al McDonald said "If you aren’t number one, then you aren’t trying hard enough. So yes, we have a lot of work to do, and we need to communicate better to outside cities. We need our local entrepreneurs and business leaders to step up and say how wonderful North Bay is for business." 

As a business owner, it is quite difficult to step up and say North Bay is a wonderful place to do business, when it is evident that the culture of our City does not naturally support local small business. After discussions with many other businesses in this City, we know that this sentiment is shared by many. This lack of entrepreneurial culture was made even more clear in the recent article (and comments) about the city's plan to offer exclusivity to the World's Finest Midway, with the potential of shutting out numerous local food vendors.

While City Council may not be responsible for making operational decisions, they can play a vital role in building a strong entrepreneurial/business-friendly environment. This starts with the culture of City Hall to ensure that local business support, business retention, entrepreneurship, and economic development is deeply rooted in all municipal decision making. Without this mindset, our municipal leaders and staff will never be able to effectively strengthen North Bay’s economy and ensure the majority of local business feels valued, understood and supported.

It is time for a change. We do not want to see the City of North Bay continue to lose more jobs, feel the effects of small business closures, witness the population decrease and watch entrepreneurs gravitate to communities that truly are open for business. When will the City of North Bay truly support their local business?

Andrea and Nathan Pascoe

Pascoe Rentals & Events, North Bay