Greg Adams, owner of several Tim Hortons franchise locations in the Cowichan Valley area, says he hopes to have the Lake Cowichan location open for business by the middle of July. Walking or driving down N. Shore Road, one can see that construction workers have already started to pour forms only days after council approved Adams’s application for a development permit to begin the project.
Mayor Forrest and the town council are excited about the project. Forrest feels that any business that comes to Lake Cowichan is good for the town and will help to generate more business within the community. Adams did not have to go through much of an application process in order to build because “we don’t have any bylaws to not allow something like a fast food place. There are no zoning requirements that needed to be changed or anything,” says Forrest. However, “The town did make a few changes with their application.” These changes included some issues with traffic flow and access and a couple of changes to do with the appearance of the building as well as the Tim Hortons sign.
But Forrest sees the addition of Tim Hortons to Lake Cowichan as part of a larger picture. He is very proud of the new library which is set to be built behind Forest Workers Memorial Park and which will be part of a project that includes the creation of a new town square. The town has applied for a grant from the Island Coastal Economic Trust which will pay for one third of the development and building costs.
Forrest says he would like to see the empty buildings around town fill up with new businesses. He thinks that investments in infrastructure, such as the town’s plans to improve and upgrade curbs, gutters, and landscaping throughout town, in conjunction with the Department of Transportation paving Shore Road and increased traffic on the Pacific Marine Circle Route combined will help to encourage economic growth. “And maybe Tim Hortons will be part of giving people a reason to stop in town.”
When asked what can be done about the empty buildings and to help the many small businesses that struggle to survive in Lake Cowichan, Forrest points to tax exemptions given to local businesses who invest in upgrading their buildings. “We have a bylaw now for a business tax exemption. For instance if you did $50,000 worth of work on your building and your assessment went up, we have a tax exemption in place now. Your taxes won’t go up.”
Councillor Bob Day agrees with Forrest and in fact puts the responsibility back in the hands of business owners. The town is responsible for things like roads, sidewalks, sewer, water, and garbage, he says. “I don’t think we’re responsible for opening businesses. Do you want us to buy the buildings? Do you want us to open the businesses? Do you want me to collect tax payer money and invest in inventory and re-facing? Do you want me to force that person to open a business?” He notes that five years ago the town was borrowing money to make payroll and that the Lake Cowichan has seen tough times, but it has come a long way.
Day says that Country Grocer paved the way for businesses like Tim Hortons. Once Country Grocer had finished building, the liquor store made upgrades and the town decided to upgrade Darnell Road. But he admits that many of the businesses in town are run down and that Lake Cowichan is not the kind of place that will attract a lot of business in the first place. “If successful businesses, in my opinion, were located on main streets with logging trucks going down them, Walmart would be on every street, in every town in America. This is not the style and business where you’re going to see a lot of businesses come and relocate.”
Adams says that with almost anything in life, there will be someone who has something negative to say. If there had been a major outcry from the Town of Lake Cowichan, against the new Tim Hortons location, Adams says he would have listened. As it is, he is excited about the project. He’s had many people approach him to say that “they are happy, and even ecstatic that we are coming in. Someone even told me that it was the best thing to have happened to the town in a long time.”
Tim Hortons will be accepting applications for employment sometime in the beginning of May. There will be signs about town and the business will be looking for everything from cooks and store front employees to managers. He predicts that staff numbers will fluctuate between 30 in the winter, to over 50 in the summer. He already has a few Lake Cowichan residents as employees in one of the other Tim Hortons locations in Duncan and says that the construction workers who have started building at the Lake Cowichan location are all local residents.