Touchstones Nelson is amongst a number of arts and culture venues in Nelson that have found ways to survive through the pandemic in 2020. The sector has been particularly hard hit by tough COVID protocols and the economic downturn. Photo: Darren Davidson

Touchstones Nelson is amongst a number of arts and culture venues in Nelson that have found ways to survive through the pandemic in 2020. The sector has been particularly hard hit by tough COVID protocols and the economic downturn. Photo: Darren Davidson

BUSINESS BUZZ: 2020 from K-Z

Part 2 of the Nelson Star’s alphabetical year-end review

by Darren Davidson

Two weeks ago The Buzz bid a partial so-long to 2020, in the first half of our A-to-Z year in review, which can be read here. Here’s part two:

K — True to form, COVID’s K-shaped economy saw business boom in some local sectors, plummet in others and rollercoaster for the remainder. An example of the later: accommodation rates and hospitality sales flatlined for the pandemic’s first few months, rebounded to record heights in the summer, and now are braced for a potentially dismal winter … Kootenay Rockies Tourism’s two newest West Kootenay board director selections provide some foresight into emerging niches in the region’s tourism sector — Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association boss Mike Riediger, and Andrea Ryman of Destination Castlegar and part of the upstart Arrow Lakes Slocan Valley Tourism Association — joined the board after its annual general meeting.

L— Lumber. What a year for those who buy it and those who mill it. The pandemic’s increased demand and supply shortage drove wood prices from $400 per 1,000 board feet to $1,100 — costs passed on to home and building purchasers. Spearhead will soon have even greater advanced wood manufacturing capabilities thanks to its Swiss-made TechnoWood portal robot mill, in a new building constructed with wondrous materials from Kalesnikoff Lumber. The Kalesnikoff team opened its $35-million mass timber plant and added 55 jobs while mills elsewhere in B.C. closed for good or cut shifts, and building supply stores like Home Hardware, Rona/Maglio, trades and architects are swamped thanks to a super strong building market.

M—Municipal government. Kudos to City of Nelson CFO Colin McClure, city manager Kevin Cormack, staff and council for the city’s rapidly rolled-out Economic Stimulus and Financial Stability 25 Point Action Plan. Announced in May, the plan negated any tax increase, fast tracked vital restaurant patios and earmarked 50 per cent of parking revenues, roughly $150,000, to local economic development. City workers — Nelson Police Department, Nelson Fire and Rescue, Public Works — thank you for your frontline commitment in truly frightening times.

N — Non-profits and Nelson Leafs. Digging deep on dedication, a few dozen Nelson non-profit organizations are soldiering on, including the city’s beloved Junior B hockey team, which was on a scorching playoff tear before being shut out by the virus in March. The Leafs powerhouse 2020-21 squad could go deeper if play resumes in the New Year.

O—Outlying outliers and oddities. Rife with authenticity, in-demand lifestyle and heaps of affordable space, the Ymirs, Salmos and Kaslos of our little West Kootenay world are hidden gems no longer.

P—Provincial government. Love them or not, BC Chambers of Commerce and many business sectors will say Premier John Horgan listened and acted fast and effectively on pandemic economic relief efforts — then leveraged that with a controversial but victorious election call.

Q— Queue. Don’t you miss standing in line with your friends, family and familiar faces to see a band, live theatre production, exhibit opening, Hollywood blockbuster or ski movie? It doesn’t make sense that 50 masked audience members can’t socially distance in a theatre, while hundreds can shop at a big box store. Our arts and culture community needs COVID regulations that’ll enable their financial survival.

R — Redfish Vanz. Former Whitewater familiar faces Joe Gilbert and Nigel See are booked with orders through the summer, for their new custom-build Overland off-road adventure van business, offered in four designs: the Steelhead, Coho, Kokanee and Chinook.

S— Schools. And Selkirk. Public and private school teachers, administrators and support staff have had a year of unprecedented challenge, with our kids’ daunting present and futures in their hands. Huge thanks to them. … A indisputable pillar in the community, employing over 500 people and educating more than 2,500 students a year, Selkirk College forged on in 2020. An example of the college’s exemplary community spirit: In April, the Selkirk College Foundation’s COVID-19 Student Relief Campaign raised $750,000, keeping more than 500 students afloat with emergency funding. The foundation’s annual tally usually comes in around $450,000.

T— Tourism. Tech. And Thomson. Tourism is B.C.’s third largest industry and a defining economic powerhouse for Nelson. The Tourism Industry Association of BC fears it could take the industry years to bounce back from the pandemic. Dianna Ducs and the Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism crew have taken a lead role in positive messaging on safety, stay-cationing and local shopping support. The good news — visitors are already booking holidays for later in 2021 and early 2022.

And even better news: Nelson’s tech sector. D-Pace, Traction On Demand, Thought Exchange, Kootenay Association of Science and Technology, a rapidly growing well-paid local workforce of tele-commuting pros who work here and around the world all at the same time — the future is coming to live, work and play here.

Thomson, as in Tom. The former radio ad salesman has been at the helm of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce for 14 years. As executive director he’s overseen the ongoing $4-million CP Railway Station restoration (a project unrivalled by any chamber in B.C.), spurs Railtown’s development and helps guide Community Futures Central Kootenay’s collaborative Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership along with the City of Nelson and RDCK Electoral Areas E and F. Thomson and his staff have been a first-rate first point of contact for thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs and visitors — and tirelessly advocated for the best interests of the city’s economy and small business sector. That’s a lot of weight to carry. And they do.

U— Un-real estate. Record shattering with no end in sight. Despite a global pandemic and historic economic shut down, Nelson single family home sales are up 17 per cent year to date. Total dollar volume is up 22 per cent. The median price for a single family home is $543,800 — up nine per cent. And, according to incoming Kootenay Association of Realtors president Chuck Bennett, while demand is sky high, supply is tight. Listings are down 31 per cent. “It’s been a spectacular year, across the Kootenays and no one saw it coming,” says Bennett. “In Nelson, it’s been unbelievable.”

V—The Valley. With the Village of Slocan’s purchase of Slocan Lake’s coveted $1.5- million waterfront mill site property, David Hartley’s Zincton Resort proposal, slow-but-sure-to-come high speed internet, and the formation of the Arrow Slocan Tourism Association, times are changing in our tied-died and blue-collared bastion of free thinkers.

W—Whitewater. Despite masks and shipping container restaurants, it’s a sanctuary of normalcy and reprieve, still, mercifully, with no cell service. The logistics and effort made by Knee Deep Developments, Andrew Kyle, general manager Kirk Jensen, Rebeckah Hornung and company have been Herculean. Same goes for all the economically vital winter resorts across the province.

X—In June, the intersection of Josephine and Victoria, former home to Divine Alchemy Tattoos, Tarynn Lloyd’s pottery studio, Busaba Thai Cafe and Aldo’s Cleaners, was the site of one of Nelson’s worst business fires in decades. There’s a beautiful building in the works there now, slated for opening by end of spring, with room for new retail/commercial tenants and three live/work studios.

Y—Yummy! Winter patios and more food trucks. Great ideas. In the next few months, Nelson city council will be considering a comprehensive report that looked at food truck businesses in places like Vancouver, Seattle, Fernie and Courtney, licensing costs and the rolling restaurants’ impacts on existing food and beverage businesses. Where would they go? Railtown would be on the radar, for starters.

Z— Zan Cumerford and her boutique marketing agency Litework Marketing opened up at 390 Baker St., next to Otter Books, a few months ago. Specializing in digital marketing and social media management, the business speaks to the advertising world we’ve fast-forwarded into due to the pandemic. “Digital marketing has changed the landscape completely,” says Cumerford, who worked for large scale independent events in San Francisco, New York, Ireland and Argentina. “Online marketing and online sales are no longer options, they’re essential.”

Indeed. Online. And onwards. Good luck in 2021 everyone. Stay safe. Stay kind. Stay positive.