Business confidence slipping: BC chamber 

WREC event talks economy, housing and more

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - CONFIDENCE CHECK BC Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Val Litwin presents at the Whistler Real Estate Company’s View From Here event on Feb. 2.
  • Photo By Braden Dupuis
  • CONFIDENCE CHECK BC Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Val Litwin presents at the Whistler Real Estate Company’s View From Here event on Feb. 2.

The "confidence meter" of B.C.'s business owners has taken a hit in recent years, according to the BC Chamber of Commerce.

"One out of every two entrepreneurs is saying, 'My confidence has declined,'" said BC Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Val Litwin, in a presentation at the Whistler Real Estate Company's (WREC) View From Here event at the Maury Young Arts Centre on Feb. 2.

Citing statistics from the Chamber's MindReader platform—which allows the chamber to pull real-time info and data provided by its members—Litwin noted that, where 78 per cent of members agreed that the provincial government was "generally supportive of business" in 2016, that number fell to just 46 per cent in 2018.

"We're making sure that government is seeing this data, because as there is that declining level of confidence, (and in) feeling that the government is in fact supporting business, there will be a ripple effect in terms of investment and growth," Litwin said.

"So government has seen these numbers, and we're hopeful that in our February budget in a couple of weeks here we're going to see some breaks for the business community."

Litwin was one of nine speakers at the WREC's second View From Here event—an information-packed, all-afternoon affair.

Other speakers included: Central Credit Union 1 chief economist Helmut Pastrick; Whistler Blackcomb COO Pete Sonntag; the Lil'wat Nation's Maxine Joseph-Bruce and Kerry Mehaffey; Resort Municipality of Whistler Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey; Tourism Whistler's director of research and destination development Meredith Kunza; Sue Adams, director and board vice chair with the Whistler Learning Centre; and WREC president Pat Kelly.

"Our current situation, we're returning to historical levels of activity in our marketplace, which is somewhere between 500 and 650 transactions in Whistler," Kelly said in his presentation.

"In Whistler, there is very strong interest in Phase 1 condominiums and things that can be rented—let's call that the Airbnb impact."

Commercially, you'd be hard pressed to get into a Whistler Village space for under $45/square foot today, Kelly said, with most now over $75.

In comparison with its mountain-town peers, Whistler provides solid real estate value, Kelly said, with an average transaction value of about $1 million and space going for about USD$850/square foot.

"In Vail, the average price of a single-family home is USD$2,150 a square foot; townhouses sell at $1,700 a square foot," Kelly said, noting that in places like Beaver Creek and Baxter Gulch, or areas further from ski-in/out access, the prices are more in line with Whistler.

"Aspen is a world to itself. It is a very small market, and the average price of a home in Aspen currently is running at $6.9 million. That is down from $8 million.

"So I guess the takeaways that I would offer you is all of these markets experienced much the same as we did—a slowing in activity but support for prices—and that our prime properties, our best properties in Whistler, continue to be good value and continue to compare favourably with our peers."

The afternoon concluded with a panel discussion featuring six of the speakers, with the first question posed to Sonntag about the future of WB's "Renaissance" project (announced before Vail Resorts purchased the mountain operator in 2016).

"When we announced our capital project for the past year a year ago, that kind of gave us the opportunity to reframe the Renaissance a little bit," Sonntag said.

"And so what we said was our focus was going to be on improving the on-mountain experience, and we were gong to prioritize that over base-area developments, waterpark, things like that."

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