A new foreign entrepreneur may soon be setting up shop in Merritt through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).
Zhang Jumei, who goes by Rebecca, visited the Nicola Valley from Nov. 7 to Nov. 11, 2020 and was satisfied that Merritt would be the ideal location for her proposed business, which will be a retail supply store for those who make beer and wine.
Acting on the recommendation from the PNP Committee, council approved a letter of referral for Jumei at the regular council meeting of March 23.
At a PNP Committee meeting on the same date, an update on the program and the most recent applicants was provided. The current program concluded on March 31, but Manager of Economic Development Will George explained that the province had made the decision to extend the program for an additional three years, as opposed to the two years that had initially been expected.
There will also be changes made to the program to reflect the requests of participating municipalities. Communities that wish to continue to take part in the PNP must re-apply by June 30 of this year.
Since the program started on March 14, 2019, the City of Merritt and the PNP Committee have received 308 inquiries from immigration consultants and foreign entrepreneurs, although there has been a drop in inquiries recently, likely stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since last quarter we have received 16 business inquiries on this program, so definitely a lot less than we had in the beginning,” explained George. “Up to Dec 31, 2020 we’ve hosted 20 community exploratory visits with foreign entrepreneurs. We haven’t hosted any to date from December until now, of course, due to the travel restrictions. There currently are 18 foreign entrepreneurs who have submitted all of the required documents and information and are planning on visiting Merritt for their exploratory visit once international travel opens up and they feel comfortable.”
From the program’s start to March 23, 2021, 14 letters of referral had been provided by the BC PNP Committee, with seven of those focusing on miscellaneous retail such as gift shops, office supplies and stationery, and the sewing machine business which will be operated by Simon Ho, the first foreign entrepreneur to be welcomed to Merritt under the PNP.
Ho arrived with his family last year, but struggled to find a storefront suitable for his business. He has, however, now requested a business license from the City with the hopes of opening for business soon.
The remaining seven applications were in the truck and transport industry.
In addition, five applications for letters of referral were denied as they did not meet the scoring levels set by the province for consideration.