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Incorporation: Business and Reality

    Editorial & Opinions, Governance & Politics    September 8, 2017

Some folks are using the history of our friend Mickey McLeod and his business, Salt Spring Coffee, to suggest that things would be very different if we had a municipality here. I won’t argue with his version of the story, nor will I take on the folks who are advocating for him.

That said, here’s an alternative view based on the genesis of “Dixons of Salt Spring”, another coffee company which aspires to be popular and successful.

Our mission statement speaks of buying only the finest organic shade-grown, ethically harvested, sustainably selected fair-trade beans from the most politically enlightened countries. We mention our carbon footprint, our world-class employee relationships and the importance of understanding our role and our responsibility in our community and in the world.

Now down to business. We know that although we will start slow and small, our corporate goal is to aggressively market our coffee so that it’s available everywhere coffee is sold. And, we want to base our business right here on Salt Spring so that it can make a meaningful contribution to our community.

So far so good – but our business mentor has some reservations. She cautions that most start-ups
don’t invest in building a state-of-the-art facility. Rather, they lease their premises and concentrate on growing their brand. She also suggests that committing to the Salt Spring location may be a poor long-term business decision considering the extra cost of shipping hundreds of tons of coffee beans here, roasting them with imported propane gas, importing all our packaging materials and finally shipping our product off island in several directions – all via the BC Ferry Corporation.

She tells me that the combined extra expenses involved in running my business from here will make it disadvantaged and less profitable in a competitive market. She suggests that growth and success will be dependent on finding another location that is well connected to shipping, warehousing, natural gas and a dependable labour pool. And she’s right, of course.

SO – when someone is encouraging you to vote for incorporation based on the saga of Mickey versus the evil monsters @ the Islands Trust office, consider that in the long term they may have done him a favour by not allowing him to invest in a fabulous building that he would likely outgrow – in a location that would clearly limit his business success.

Speaking of the Islands Trust, they have a history of basing their land-use decisions on our Official Community Plan and on input from the community members that would be most affected by commercial or industrial activity. The most credible arguments against industrial-scale coffee roasting in a rural environment are odours from the roasting process and a concentration of employee and delivery vehicle traffic.

Everyone agreed on the necessity and the importance of having a metal recycling facility on our island, but the Trust agreed with near neighbours that it should not be located inside a residential area.

A developer applied for rezoning and OCP amendments that would allow a large commercial resort to operate in an area with known water supply issues. The Trust did not proceed with the application.

Each of these cases moved slowly through the process, but ultimately in each case the Trust listened to the people who could potentially be negatively affected by the activity.

Of course not everyone involved is pleased with the outcome, but each decision served to Preserve and Protect our beautiful island environment. A municipal government would limit the ability of the Trust to moderate commercial and industrial development, and for that reason, I voted NO to incorporation.

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