Letters: Small business needs helping hand

Dear Editor,

Looking for better opportunities, I immigrated to Canada with my family in 2005. I used all of my life savings, purchased what is now the Milner Husky gas station, and earned my Canadian residency. 

I am now a proud business owner, Canadian resident, and local town member.

When I had first opened the gas station, the business was consistent and I was able to make a decent living to support my family. 

However, over the past ten years, new gas stations have found a place in our town, year by year, dropping our total sales 50 per cent. 

Besides the two or three locally owned gas stations in the area, all of the gas stations in Langley are operated by large conglomerates. 

It is now becoming increasingly apparent that small businesses cannot survive competing with these large businesses and brands. Big companies that have come in over the years, like the gas station at Costco, have been fatal to our business.

 As you have probably seen thus far, some small businesses are owned by immigrants, and are often family operated. Because language is such a great barrier for immigrants – who have come from various countries in search of opportunities – people often have no choice but to start small, local businesses that don’t require rigorous communication. 

Laundromats, gas stations and convenience stores, and restaurants are examples of local businesses often started by Canadian immigrants. 

These businesses need constant attention from their owners, and many of these people are often working more than 10 hours a day to keep their businesses afloat. I, myself, have worked at least 10 hours a day, 365 days a year, at my own business. 

But without these people to run such businesses, there would be no other way to keep them going ,because of the work and attention that they require. 

I believe that it is important to remember that small businesses run towns and communities, and it is therefore our responsibility to protect and support them as we are able.

Two week ago, I attended a public hearing regarding the opening of a new gas station next to the Milner Husky, to voice my opinion and hear the side of the new business applicant.

 It has come to my attention that there are two points that have not been properly communicated by the applicant. 

Firstly, the applicant discussed the presentation that was given by him and his company proposing the new store opening. He claimed that, after the presentation, the members of the town and Milner association agreed to the opening of his gas station. 

This is false information. He was merely there to present his idea and opportunity – the presentation was not a platform to agree or disagree to the opening of a new businesses. No decisions had been made or opinions given at that time from any parties. 

Secondly, he had claimed that his proposal was made after thorough market research. As a business owner of the community for the past 10 years, I do not believe that any such market research had been done, reason being that this is simply not a prime location for another gas station. 

There are already at least 10 large gas stations in a four-kilometre radius in the area. 

In addition, I have found most of the customers to be merely passersby, not residents of the area, making business unpredictable.

The larger gas stations in the area are run by big name brands and conglomerates that do not feel the direct impact of the competition. There is just no way for us smaller businesses to compete. 

I fully support the local businesses of the area, but I do not believe in opening a new business that could potentially damage or kill another local business. It is clear that opening this new gas station will be damaging for both the Milner Husky gas station and the new business itself, as both are selling the same products and offering the same services. 

This is an illogical business for our neighbourhood, where we can be opening other local businesses that will instead help enrich and sustain our community, rather than hurting it. What we need and what consumers want is variety. 

We are a growing town that can be bolstered by new and relevant business, lending way to diversity and greater change. 

I came to Canada to create a better life for myself and my family, and in pursuing this goal, I have worked hard for the past ten years. 

It has always been important to me to open a business that creates more job opportunities for others that I know have the same goals that I do. 

But I realize that even with my efforts, there are things that are out of my hands, and problems that I cannot solve on my own. That is why I implore the Township and members of the community to reconsider the opening of this new gas station. 

I myself do not have the power to change this decision, but if there are others who share my views, please make your voice heard. 

Chul Kim, Milner

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