LETHBRIDGE: Threat of recession is driving business confidence down across the country, but local numbers are fighting the trend. While national business confidence rates have dropped to their lowest since 2009, Lethbridge has recorded its best new business license issuing period in 10 years.
"The environment right now for businesses to invest and to grow is really strong," Economic Development Lethbridge CEO Cheryl Dick told Country 95 News Wednesday. "You've got low interest rates and you've relatively controlled costs. During the boom, construction costs were high; lease rates for office space were high. Now all those sorts of things have declined."
Overall, 227 new business licenses were issued in Lethbridge to date for 2011. That number is up about seven per cent compared to the first six months of 2010, and higher than the beginning six month period of any year since 2001.
Meanwhile, the rest of the country is clocking statistics that are much less optimistic. On Wednesday, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its "business barometer" index for August and found confidence among business owners has fallen to 61.7, the lowest reading since July 2009.
Alberta stands about 15 points above that national average at 75, but a local representative said economic headlines may soon affect us here too. "Certainly Alberta is vulnerable on a number of different fronts. We're very dependent on the U.S. economy with our resource production. If those commodity prices take a dive we could take a tumble," said CFIB Alberta director Richard Truscott. "We'll have to see what happens in the next couple of months, because there's definitely a lot of bad economic news in the headlines. Not just the trouble we've seen in the international equity markets but also the issues related to the debt ceiling in the U.S."
Dick agreed that Lethbridge business owners should be "prudent" and continue to keep their eye on such headlines. But she adds the city's diversified economy - more heavily based in the public sector than boom-bust resource production - should go a long way to keep local investors optimistic.
"Historically it's been proven that Lethbridge is pretty stable. And I believe that's something we're going to keep seeing in this market, unless it's something beyond our control like another major global recession," said Dick. "In Lethbridge there are opportunities and I think people are taking advantage of this particular moment in time, before interest rates go up."