Hope’s location, transportation infrastructure, and cost of doing business are often touted as clear advantages of our community over competing jurisdictions. But what do businesses who have actually relocated based on that assumption say about these advantages? To answer that question, AdvantageHOPE asked a relatively new company to our area about their decision to relocate to our area.
Kent Peterson Design (KPD) is a screen printing business specializing in T-Shirts, sweatshirts, and the textile industry. Owner Kent Peterson has been in the industry in Vancouver since 1986, and has owned his own business since 2001. The following is an excerpt from an interview with Pederson.
AdvantageHOPE (AH): What first attracted you to the Hope area, and Sunshine Valley in particular?
Kent Peterson (KP): My exploration to the Hope area came as a result of several factors. Business in 2009- 2010 dropped drastically for my industry due in part by the economic collapse of the U.S. and the recession’s impact to local trade and tourism in general throughout B.C. and Vancouver. We had significant drop offs in the numbers of tourists from Japan, U.S.A., and other countries. My business is driven by tourism and events [were] no longer funded by local organizations and business during those times. My business could no longer maintain the high overhead of Vancouver manufacturing spaces. Landlords were hit hard with large tax increases for parking spaces and city taxes were already high.
Many landlords had to adjust rents lower to keep tenants and others would not accommodate and adjust rents during this time. The latter being the case for my company. Faced with the reality of the times I had to make a decision to move or go under trying to stay afloat in the high overhead of Vancouver. The decisions were tough to make. Where to go? Would my wife be able to transfer her job or find other employment outside of Vancouver? All of these questions had to be answered quickly so I called one of my main clients to get an opinion from him and any possible leads or options he may have. As it turned out he introduced me to a business associate of his that had a family member in the same business as mine but he was more a specialist on the signage aspects of the graphics industry. He had a smaller screen printing setup then my company.
A meeting was set and I made the trip into Hope to discuss relocation to Sunshine Valley. After meeting with Ryan Ellan from Sasquatch Sign Company and a tour of the building he restored in Sunshine Valley for his sign & screen shop, we came to the realization that we could both mutually benefit from combining equipment and expertise in our respective fields together.
Hope was a place I had passed through just like thousands do every year on my way to somewhere else. Gas up the car, grab a quick bite to eat, stretch your legs and back on the road. I thought my business would always remain in Vancouver and my clients would demand this in order to stay in business with them.
Relocating my shop or living in Hope or Sunshine Valley was not on my mind over my 26 years printing in Vancouver. Honestly who would imagine such a drastic relocation 170 kilometres from the source of their business and client base? Sometimes it takes a major event to make a major move.
In 2010, we packed up the shop and headed east. I was uncertain what future was ahead for my family but I knew what we were leaving behind and that was an eventual end of the road for my company.
It was the fork in the road but more the open road and a chance to start over. Given the choice I think most of us would prefer to take a chance or risk change in a case of survival for their business and family.
I took this risk, and with the support of my wife Theresa, we went head first into this community.
What we found on arrival was a major contrast to living in Vancouver’s densely populated west end.
Sunshine Valley and Hope B.C. [are] surrounded by amazing mountains and wilderness. Fresh air, clean water, and no crowds [or] noise pollution.
Theresa was able to obtain a transfer to Hope in her job (great relief for me) and I started my new routine of driving into Vancouver once a week to see clients that used to come to my shop.
It has been an adjustment for sure. The cost of driving into Vancouver weekly is a fraction of the overhead I had to put out each month. Roughly one month of overhead in Vancouver equals the entire year of fuel costs I spend now for weekly trips and shipping costs to Vancouver.
My business relationships have actually become better with my Vancouver clients as I now come to see them and deliver door to door. If anything I have made it easier for clients to do business with me.
We no longer need to be located within 10 miles of the customers we service. Looking back with 20/20 vision I really wonder why I didn’t step back and come to that conclusion many years earlier.
If I could advise any person struggling to make a business work in a tough overhead market like Vancouver, it would be to rethink your business model and look at relocating to this area for the exact reasons I did. We have been embraced by the community and welcomed by all. I have not once been met with any negativity from locals here. In fact support has been overwhelming. I have in turn put my efforts into supporting the local business here. I drive into Vancouver and pass through Chilliwack weekly driving right past all the big box stores on my way. Yet I insist on buying everything and anything I can from Hope. My lawnmower from Hope Sears, my never ending hardware supplies from Rona, Stationary from Hope Stationary and on and on. The locals know who supports the locals. That is what a small town needs to do. Start there and realize giving back to your community means the money stays at home and helps your home thrive.
AH: Have you benefited from your move three years ago?
KP: I think the answer is obviously yes. I’m still in business three years later and the company is growing. We ship to Australia, Japan, America, and are finding more and more of the lower mainland and Vancouver clients are actually wanting to take working vacations to our shop in Sunshine Valley as they find it so beautiful here. Our many visitors all stock up on supplies in Hope and this has also added to the local economy. Many have fond memories of summer holiday travels with family and stopping in Hope. Now they are rediscovering this beautiful place as adults and staying to discover all “stuff ” you can do here.
AH: Where do you see opportunity in Hope?
KP: I see Hope with many opportunities. Obviously Hope needs the economic boost of a major manufacturing plant being setup. Distribution and warehousing from Hope with its all roads leading everywhere location would seem attractive to industry. Square footage lease rates and property values are other obvious reasons for industry to locate here. Cost of affordable housing is another attractive Hope attraction. The market has many great houses made during the glory days of the “rancher” style house.
Personally I think a convention centre would be a great place for trade shows and events in Hope. Reaching out and marketing Hope to industries throughout North America as a place to setup or relocate would be another main focus for this community. The facilities are here and the location is ideal for the many reasons I listed above as was the case for my business. Hope could also be known as the place to find quality work or the best deals on cars for example. Many people have told me that people will come from miles away to purchase a vehicle from Gardner’s as the service and competitive prices attract them.
AH: How important is location for your business?
KP: I think I have answered that question but apparently location is not important. I just got a new customer from Whistler. There is a screen shop there so?
AH: Who are your target markets? Do they know you operate out of Sunshine Valley?
KP: My target markets are people that want high quality work, fair market value, and service that is on time every time. Target locations are BC and the world.
AH: What would you tell someone considering relocating to Hope or expanding their business in Hope?
KP: I would tell them to read what I have said above or come see me in person and ask whatever questions they want. Take a tour of the area and not just gas and go.
AH: As a silkscreener, you help get other people’s brand message out. How important is a branding to your own company?
KP: Good question. In the past I never thought about branding my company. I had guaranteed contracts every year. Not the case anymore so now I have been making the efforts to do exactly that. In this area I’m marketing the Sasquatch Sign Co. side and in Vancouver I’m getting the word out that I’m only 1 & 1/2 hours away. It’s catching on.
AH: Is branding important to a community as well?
KP: I think it is but if branding and re-branding go on and on over and over again there is not much gained unless something comes of it. Targeting your community needs for new industry and employment are the priority number one. So much good can come to Hope in many possible ways.
AH: How does KPD positively impact the communities of Sunshine Valley and Hope?
KP: Sasquatch Sign Co [an affiliated company of KPD] and KPD positively impact Hope as examples of companies proving it can be done. You don’t have to be right next door to your clients anymore.
KPD is just one of several companies servicing a broad client base from our affordable, beautiful, and well-connected community. To contact Peterson, call 604-869-7070 or visit www.sasquatchsignco.com. If you know of a similar company – share it on The Hope Standard or AdvantageHOPE Facebook pages, or tweet to @HopeStandard or @AdvantageHOPE.
Tyler Mattheis is executive director of AdvantageHOPE. He can be reached at 604-8620-0930 or tyler @advantagehope.ca.