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The city should get full marks for its innovative approach to sparking business growth downtown.

A contest is being held awarding one year of free downtown commercial space to the first place winner.

The city has witnessed a business flight from the downtown core in recent years as retailers struggled with high rents, competition from online sales, and social problems related to loitering and public intoxication.

It will take some revitalization and enticement to draw them back. The city can start by focusing on the problem it is most able to address – the high cost of real estate. There may be some great ideas out there for a downtown business that are stifled by the cost of leasing retail space in the downtown core.

That said, the city’s core is not a lost cause. The success of new businesses such as The Fat Fox Cafe and Birchwood Coffee Ko attest to that, as does the success of not-so-new businesses like Bijou Boutique.

And nothing encourages success like success. The more new and thriving businesses that pop up in the downtown core, the better it is for all businesses and the people who shop downtown.

There are other benefits to this contest beyond its function as new business incubator.

It will give the city a sense for how much interest there is in developing storefront businesses in the downtown core.

Presumably, if the city is overwhelmed with solid applicants and business concepts, all waiting for a little financial help to get off the ground, then a contest like this one can be repeated in the future.

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