How it's done
When it comes to researching your local area, there’s always more than meets the eye. What at first glance may appear to be an advantage may turn out, on closer inspection to be a major drawback for your business. This is why you should consider a range of essential location factors. Here are the questions this page will help you answer.
- WHAT location factors matter?
- WHERE are these key location factors?
- HOW do I use this information?
What location factors matter?
Essential location factors that can have an important impact on your business or investment are identified below, along with a description that summarizes their importance.
Land use controls determine where you can operate your business or undertake a new development.
Environmental constraints may limit or prohibit new development or business operations.
Great businesses have great staff, so finding a qualified and available workforce is critical.
Traffic and transportation
Accessibility (ingress and egress) and visibility are two important factors businesses need to consider when choosing a location.
Community facilities generate activity that businesses can benefit from.
Where are these key location factors?
This section provides maps that illustrate each of the essential location factors discussed above. Each essential location factor has its own map which you can find by clicking on the relevant tab across the top. Use the maps to determine which location might impact your business or investment and warrant further investigation.
How do I use this information?
It is one thing to have data about essential location factors, but another to have thought it through and know what it all means. This section will help you use the information provided above to make better business decisions.
Local land use controls regulate the use and development of land throughout the municipality. These controls matter because they also determine where you can operate a business. Each part of the municipality is divided into zones. For each zone, particular types of development and land uses may be permitted within its boundary. Land use zoning regulations are combined with maps into a legal document called a zoning bylaw. Zoning bylaws can control a range of things including land use, signage, parking, setbacks, hours of operation and more.
The land use map above indicates those general areas where commercial, industrial, residential and other types of uses may be permitted. Use this map to identify the general category of land use that applies to the location you are researching. Be warned however, land use controls can get complicated. For example, certain types of businesses may be permitted in residential areas. So the next step is to talk to the planning department to get a better understanding of all the controls that apply to that location. If you don’t consider these controls, you may not be able to obtain approval from the municipality to operate a business or undertake new development.
Environmental areas protect resources and values that have been identified by the municipality as providing benefits to the community and environment. It’s important to be aware of where these environmental areas apply as they may constrain or prohibit new development or business operations. The environmental constraints map above can help you do this. If you have further questions about the potential impact of a constraint on your business or investment, we encourage you to contact the municipal planning department.
Finding, hiring and retaining great employees is a key ingredient for successful companies. In fact, for some types of businesses access to skilled labor is the number one factor in deciding where to locate. This means for your business to be competitive you should seek a location that will provide a qualified and available workforce. The workforce map above is an easy way to find out if a qualified workforce exists in the local area.
Traffic and transport
Excellent access to transportation, such as roads, rail, airports and ports is a major success factor for many businesses, particularly warehousing and distribution operations. Accessibility also means making it easy and safe for customers to enter and exit your premises. For retail and other businesses that rely on passing trade, having good accessibility, signage and a high level of visibility and exposure along busier roads can really help build awareness and attract customers. For businesses located in residential areas and dense inner city areas, visibility and accessibility will be a little less important because people will know where you are. In this this instance, good signage is still critical to marketing your business.
Knowing how many vehicles pass by a site each day is an important consideration when it come to assessing accessibility and visibility. Too much traffic can lead to congestion and constrain access to a business, but it also means the site has high visibility. Only having a small amount of traffic passing by each day is not ideal for retail and other businesses that rely on passing trade. In short, the optimal volume of passing traffic will depend on the nature and location of the business.
You can use the map above to assess access to transportation and traffic volumes within the municipality. Take care though when assessing traffic volumes as the number of cars passing a location doesn’t tell you how many of the cars will potentially visit your business. For retail and other consumer orientated businesses finding the best location requires: firstly, being strategically located relative to other competing and complimentary businesses in proximity, having excellent visibility on a major road; and finally, making it as convenient as possible for people to enter and exit a business.
Community facilities often act as “traffic generators”. Traffic generators are businesses or activities that draw people or other businesses to a given location. Examples include schools, hospitals, recreational and cultural facilities, malls, hotels, big box stores, industrial parks and large office buildings. People tend to visit more than one shop or premises when they’re out, so your business may benefit from locating near traffic generators. The key is to firstly pay special attention to whether your target customers frequent these traffic generators and other businesses in the same area and secondly whether the location of your business makes it easy for customers to drop into your store before or after they visit these other premises.
What else do I need to know about location factors?
The information we’ve provided above is a great start but nothing beats getting out on the ground to really understand what’s going on. Grab a map and a notebook, plan your route and visit the location with the following criteria in mind:
- Visibility – How visible from the road is the location you are interest in? Are your competitors in the area more visible? Is there an opportunity for your signage to be highly visible to passers-by?
- Access – How easy is it to enter and exit the location you’re interested in compared to your competitors? Which locations have the best access and are most convenient for people to visit?
- Traffic – How busy is the traffic around the site at different times of the day?
- Traffic generators – Are there any major traffic generators in the surrounding area? Who typically visits the traffic generators and could they be potential customers? What businesses are people also visiting before or after they frequent the traffic generator? Is it convenient for these people to also visit your location?
- Character of the surrounding area – Does the area appear to be new or old? Is it thriving, run down or improving? Are there vacancies everywhere or are they more common in one particular area? Is the surrounding area known for its crime? Does the image of the area fit the image of your business?
- Customers – What types of customers are visiting the location? Is the location in a residential area? Are there many workers in the surrounding area? Are there lots of shoppers in the area visiting nearby stores? Does the location attract travellers or commuters from nearby hotels or main roads? What businesses are your target customers currently visiting in the surrounding area?
- Competitors – What competitors exist nearby? Are they clustered together? What other types of businesses are they located near? How convenient is it to enter and exist their locations? How busy are each of these competitors?