Business

Langley Township, City part of pilot project

For people who run landscaping companies, mobile mechanic, janitorial services, construction and related businesses, having to secure a business licence in each municipality where they work is not only financially onerous, it's time consuming.

Now, months after hearing a presentation from the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, the Township has agreed to a one-year pilot project for mobile business licences.

To avoid red tape, many business owners simply operate without a business licence, but a mobile business licence would cut through the red tape, the chamber told council.

It would allow mobile businesses to operate across participating municipalities and regional districts, streamline and simplify the licensing process and reduce costs.

Several regions in the province have implemented inter-municipal business licences. The local governments involved experienced greater compliance while the businesses benefited by reduced time and expense, and simplified expansion into new markets.

The Langley chamber has pointed out that the objective of the provincial government's Jobs Plan is to “consult with local governments to expand mobile business licences, allowing employers to operate across municipal and provincial borders.”

"This makes a lot of sense," Councillor Charlie Fox commented on Sept. 17, adding that a one-year pilot project will demonstrate how well the system will work locally.

•••••

Contractors, consultants and other business people who work in multiple communities along both shores of the Fraser River could find things flowing a little smoother next year.

That's because the City of Langley has spearheaded a pilot project to introduce inter-municipal business licences, which will be valid in any of nine participating communities, from Surrey to Hope.

The impetus for the umbrella licence came from the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, who approached council with the idea last February.

Under the new system, each municipality will retain its own bylaws and fee structure for licensing businesses, but each will have the option of paying an additional $250 per year, for an inter-municipal licence which  allows them to work outside of their own community without having to purchase a separate business licence for each municipality.

The result is both a cost savings and a streamlining of the process for businesses working outside their home community.

The idea has actually been around for a number of years, said City of Langley CAO Frances Cheung, but the stumbling block was always municipalities' unwillingness to enter into a revenue sharing agreement.

This time around, a  formula has been struck to ensure that larger communities don't reap all the rewards, while smaller ones suffer a net loss of income.

"One of the fears is that smaller communities like ours will be losers financially, but this formula could see us ahead of the game or breaking even, so that's a success," said James. "It's an exciting pilot project."

"It makes so much sense. I had a business and Hope was the only (municipality) I didn't do business in," said Councillor Jack Arnold.

"With one licence you can get out there, get the job done and be done with it."

"I think this is fantastic. I hope businesses buy into it," said Councillor Gayle Martin.

Several representatives of the Chamber attended Monday's meeting, and afterward, president Angie Quaale, spoke briefly to thank the City for taking the initiative.

"I'm happy to see this. It's been several years coming and I thank the Chamber from bringing it back," said Martin.

Once each community has enacted a bylaw, the licences will be made available. Cheung expects that will happen before year's end, so that they will be in effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

The project will run for one year and then its success will be evaluated. "If everybody agrees (it's working) then it will be continued," said Cheung.

Communities which have expressed an interest in participating include Hope, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Surrey and both the City and Township of Langley.

— with files from Brenda Anderson

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