Valley First

Partnership Approach Essential to Small Business

Partnership approach essential to small business success, driving the economy
October 15, 2014

Penticton, B.C.—With small businesses dominating the Interior, Small Business Week, Oct. 19-25, is a time to celebrate the invaluable contribution these organizations make to British Columbia’s economy.

Accounting for 98 per cent of all business types and more than half of all private sector jobs in B.C, small businesses are often referred to as the backbone of the local economy. Beyond that, the small business community contributes 31 per cent of the province’s gross domestic product, making them critical to the health and vitality of scores of communities across the province, says Valley First business banking expert Kevin Smith.

“Countless communities were built around and still rely on small businesses,” says Smith. “More than one million people across B.C. go to work at a small business every day. While it’s great for more people to be shining the light on small businesses, at Valley First, every week is small business week.”

Since becoming a division of First West Credit Union in 2010, Valley First has experienced a significant lift in the support it has been able to provide small business members as well as a swelling business member base, says Smith. Between September 2013 and September 2014, Valley First increased loans to local businesses by 13 per cent and grew its business membership by 4.5 per cent.

“The growth we’ve seen over the last 12 to 24 months has been exceptional, particularly during a time when other financial institutions are actively removing themselves from parts of the small business sector,” says Smith. “We’re pursuing new partnerships and strengthening existing relationships to ensure we continue supporting the small business community. Our focus has never been sharper.

“As an individual credit union we were limited in the extent we could support our business members. However, the financial backing that comes with being part of a larger organization like First West has enabled us to do even more for our business members. Higher lending caps, better products and more experts in our core locations means we can deliver even better service. And, as a bonus, it’s a great feeling knowing that everything we do helps create stronger local economies.”

Valley First knows it’s not alone in its desire to inject more life into the local business scene. Partners such as Business Development Canada, the provincial government and municipalities throughout the Interior are also stepping up their games. Recently, the City of Kelowna received its second consecutive Open for Business award. Other regional award recipients include Vernon in 2014 and Penticton in 2013.

“It’s really promising to see organizations working together for the betterment of the business community,” says Smith. “Right here in the Okanagan our communities are being recognized for making business easy for businesses.

“As an organization, we firmly believe in a partnership approach,” says Smith. “By being part of and immersing ourselves in the business community we’ve been able to increase our support, too. We’ve expanded services, put more business bankers in our communities and refocused on providing local expertise. We really pride ourselves on serving businesses in the same communities we live, work and play.”

About Valley First

Valley First is a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union, which has 38 branches and 29 insurance offices throughout the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Kitimat and Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. Led by Launi Skinner, First West has $7.7 billion in assets under administration, more than 177,000 members and close to 1,300 employees.

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