District to join regional business program

Inter-Municipal Business Licensing program ending pilot project, District to join in 2016

The District of Kent hopes joining a regional program will help cut down on red tape and make it easier for businesses to thrive.

The Inter-Municipal Business Licensing (IMBL) program is a joint venture between multiple communities that allows a business to buy one home license and one for all the other member communities. The concept behind the plan is that many businesses such as the trades operate in many different communities and need to buy a business license for each one. That requirement leads to compliance issues and financial hardship for small businesses.

Agassiz-based Pete & Sons Plumbing & Drain Cleaning Ltd. does work in Chiliwack, Hope, Boston Bar, Abbotsford and Mission alongside Agassiz, for example.

“We’re all over the map,” explains owner Henny de Jong. She says while they have a business license that covers those other communities, it does not include Agassiz. de Jong says the District of Kent joining the IMBL program will make it easier for their business.

For others, the move by the District won’t have as much of an impact. Wouda’s Construction Ltd. focuses their business work on the District of Kent and the Village of Harrison Hot Springs. Harrison at this time is not looking to join the program, so Wouda’s still needs to buy a business license for Agassiz and a separate one for Harrison.

At the District of Kent Council meeting August 17, Darcey Kohuch, director of development services, presented the report to Council. He explained that the IMBL program began as a pilot project in 2013 with Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Maple Ridge, Mission, Pitt Meadows, Surrey and Hope.

After a successful two years, the pilot project is coming to an end and Kohuch reported the member communities want to continue on as a permanent program. The District of Kent has now been invited to join in the IMBL program.

Council members voted in favour of joining the IMBL program. Councillor Sylvia Pranger was quick to lend her support.

“The whole object is to make it more business-friendly, with less red tape and bureaucracy,” said Pranger.

Mayor John Van Laerhoven said he likes that there is a choice in the program for business owners to participate or not, depending on the scope of their work.

Van Laerhoven said they had phone calls after the IMBL program was implemented elsewhere asking why the District wasn’t part of the program.

“At that time, people were disheartened we weren’t part of it,” he recalls, adding he was disappointed the District didn’t get to participate “right from the get-go.”

Now that Council has voted in favour of joining, staff are working to be ready to implement the program locally in time for 2016 business licensing.