Business licensing goes mobile

NANAIMO – Island chambers of commerce and municipalities studying mobile business licence proposal.

Doing business across the central Island region might get a little bit easier if municipalities adopt a mobile business licence scheme.

Building contractors, photographers, farriers and many other businesses that have clients spread throughout several communities currently have to buy business licenses for each municipality in which they operate.

Costs of multiple licenses can add up – a basic business license in Nanaimo is $165 – and can even hinder small business owners’ efforts to promote their goods and services to nearby markets.

That might soon be a thing of the past. Chambers of commerce and municipalities from Duncan to Campbell River are backing a proposal for the establishment of mobile or regional business licenses that would allow businesses to legally conduct trade in communities throughout the central Island region.

The basic concept would require the owner of, say, a Nanaimo-based business to purchase a Nanaimo business license plus a mobile license for an additional fee to operate throughout the region.

Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce is advocating for mobile business licenses and is meeting with Nanaimo city council about the proposal this week.

“It is a B.C. Chamber initiative that has been very successful in other jurisdictions, including Okanagan-Similkimeen, North- and West Vancouver as well as Courtenay-Comox and the Trail region,” said Susan Allen,  Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce CEO.

“What they’ve seen because of it is an actual increase in revenue in communities because, I think, people are starting to understand that they can do business in every community and they only need one license.”

Allen said the chamber is also working with the small business branch of the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation and will give a short video presentation to council explaining how the licensing system works.

The system has been operating for several years in B.C. – since 2008 in the Okanagan – and, so far, no regions have opted out of the program.

Zelda Richarson, city manager of development support services and business licensing, said the chamber is bringing a proposal to council to have the province explore the viability of the program and do analysis of revenue implications and other aspects of adopting it.

“So we don’t really have an understanding of how it would necessarily work, how the revenue would work, how the licensing would would work,” Richardson said. “We don’t really know that yet. We’re certainly supportive of it, depending on the analysis.”

Richardson said she supports the program if there is no negative revenue impact to the city, but added she had questions about how regional districts responded to mobile licensing.

She had not seen data on whether other regional districts even adopted business licensing as a result of implementing the program and if they did, how that impacted business license revenue to municipalities.

But Allen is optimistic about the program.

“We’re really excited,” Allen said. “It’s a win-win for everyone – for the contractors and developers, for the city and for business in general. It’s about making it more mobile and easier for people to operate across participating municipalities and regional districts with a single licence.”

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