Esquimalt looks to boost business roster

Tax incentives, economic master plan to help commercial, industrial sectors

The creation of an economic development master plan to stimulate Esquimalt’s business sector is long overdue, says the mayor.

One component of the new plan will likely include developing tax incentives for businesses for the first time.

Council has long discussed developing policies, such as a revitalization tax exemption, that would attract new businesses and keep existing ones in the community, said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

She has long said more commercial taxpayers would help offset the financial burden felt by residential taxpayers.

“We recognize that we have a challenge,” she said. “One is that our taxes tend to be higher and we need to attract business.”

The issue of providing tax incentives surfaced at Monday night’s council meeting, highlighting council’s desire to develop a set of incentives “… which says for these businesses or this area, we’re going to provide a reduction in taxes in some way,” Desjardins explained. “It could be for new businesses. It could be for existing businesses.”

The goal is for a preliminary plan on the issue to come back to council in March, and to have an economic development master plan, including tax incentives, in place before next year’s tax season.

“I don’t want this thing to drag on,” Desjardins said. “We’ve been working towards this for a number of years and for whatever reason we keep having difficulty actually getting it down to, ‘this is what we’re going to do.'”

Input from the business community, including the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce, will be sought.

“We really need to hear from them as to exactly what it is that discourages businesses from coming into our community,” Desjardins said.