New business owners happy in the city, despite red tape
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 31, 2012 06:00 am
It’s pride and a heartfelt welcome that brought SanRemo Italian Bistro to town.
The popular eatery is close to opening and owner Ermanno Feliciani said he cannot say enough about the community support he encountered when moving to St. Albert.
Feliciani said he has a longstanding customer base in the city, which was a main reason for him to move his restaurant from its former Edmonton location.
“I had a lot of support from the community when I made the transition. They keep telling you that they are excited to have you in the community. It’s pretty heart-warming,” he said. “And I knew coming here, that’s how this community is.”
A recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that nine of the top 10 entrepreneurial cities in Canada are located in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Communities in Bloom survey looked at 103 cities across the country, and determined which ones were the strongest in entrepreneurial activities. Edmonton took eighth place, leading in business presence and perspective, but lacking in policy matters.
St. Albert was considered part of Edmonton but that’s supposed to change next year when the survey will include more cities in the outskirts of bigger centres, said Richard Truscott, Alberta director for the Federation.
Truscott said the main reason for Alberta’s strong showing lies in the number of entrepreneurs in the province and their perspective on the future.
“There are more optimists, a strong economy and a supportive tax structure. The one thing where it seems to fall short is red tape and cutting red tape for small businesses and municipalities,” he said.
Red tape identifies a collection of forms and procedures required to gain bureaucratic approval before opening a business. It is often complex and time-consuming and many business owners feel hindered by its presence.
Feliciani ran a catering business for twelve years, until he opened SanRemo in the northwest of Edmonton in 2006. He always wanted a secondary location but essentially decided to leave the old place and move to St. Albert.
He said the process of opening a new business was easy. St. Albert’s city staff greeted him warmly and was always helpful when it came to answering questions.
“The city staff were very accommodating and very helpful with the planning,” he said.
“Everything is a process. You can’t just open a restaurant in one day.”
Not everyone remembers the process as fondly, though.
Complete Fitness and Martial Arts opened in St. Albert at the end of August. Owner Guy Lefebvre said the red tape was a pain though he agrees that city staff was helpful.
“All the permit stuff, I ran into nothing but nice people, but the process is very unclear and you have to get this permit and then the next one,” he said.
“It’s very cumbersome and makes things very slow.”
Lefebvre added that businesses in Alberta were used to putting up with red tape so it often came down to finding the right place to settle down.
“(St. Albert) is a good place to put a business because of the amount of people with money here,” he said.
“We cater to families and having an affluent community where people can afford themselves … you need people that can afford your business.”
Truscott said Alberta’s entrepreneurs are known to excel in spite of red tape and not because of it. City governments depend on policies to cover their own costs, though this can become a detriment to the health of their entrepreneurial development.
One trend that emerged in the survey was that more cities were losing business while their suburbs were growing.
Truscott said Edmonton’s mayor and council showed little incentive to conduct a review of municipal laws and bylaws, whereas other cities started looking at ways to cut red tape.
“It may harm Edmonton because small businesses, if they can, they begin to look at relocating,” he said.
“And the incentive to relocate becomes stronger and stronger, especially with more businesses conducting their business online.”