Flex on Decks: Jason Flexhaug and Georgia Bonderud of Flexy’s Okanagan Fresh Fruit, located on Nelson Avenue across from Hume School. Flexy’s turned 20 this year. Photo: Darren Davidson

BUSINESS BUZZ: COVID and cash, ATCO’s Weatherford heads Selkirk board, and more

Darren Davidson brings us the latest goings-on in the local business world

By Darren Davidson

The economic impacts of the COVID pandemic have been colossal — world wide, nationally, here in BC, and certainly in millions of Canadians homes. What though are the costs to economies locally? As Nelson economist Mike Stolte has discovered, those statistics are at this point difficult to measure — but not impossible.

Earlier this summer, Stolte was commissioned by the Nelson and District Credit Union to create a report aimed at understanding the economic impacts of the pandemic and its lockdown.

The report is now public and it’s well worth a read. The veteran economist covers the macro impacts of COVID round the world, in B.C. and in Nelson.

The first take away: COVID’s impacts are fluid, and likely won’t be entirely known until the Canada Emergency Benefit Fund and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy payouts are done. CERB payments will stop at the end of this month.

The second: By digging into indicators like local business licences, the labour force, tax reporting and employment income, Stolte discerned that our tourism, hospitality, arts, entertainment and retail sectors have been especially hard hit.

That’s just a glimpse into the report’s findings. Every business person should have a look for a clearer picture of where we are — and where the economy could be headed this fall.

•••

In an effort to help keep local business staff safe and sound, and business open, the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce, Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership and Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism have rolled out a social media campaign that could see see you win $250 in local business gift cards. Snap a selfie while you’re dining local, shopping, or dealing with any ol’ Nelson and area business, post it, follow @discovernelson and #discovernelson #nelsonbc — and post as many shots as you want. The winning entry is selected at random at the end of each month and announced on Instagram.

Grab a “Keep Us Open for Business” posters for your shop too — they’re complementary to the “BE SMART” poster and highway signage that have popped up around town messaging through the NAEDP and Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism. The posters remind folks to maintain two metres physical distance, stay in your social bubble, wash and sanitize your hands and consider wearing a mask.

•••

The Selkirk College board of governors has a new chair. CEO Scott Weatherford of Fruitvale’s ATCO Wood Products has moved into the role at a vital moment in the college’s history. Weatherford was appointed to the Selkirk College board of governors in 2017.

“The more I learn about Selkirk College, it just completely blows me away,” Weatherford says. “There is so much that people underestimate or don’t realize about Selkirk College, it is such an asset to the region. It’s amazing that we have this institution so ingrained in our communities.”

Weatherford grew up in rural New Jersey. He attended Cornell University in upstate New York where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. He went on to work for John Deere and then Kenworth Trucks. He and his gal, Fruitvale’s Rebecca Weatherford (whose maiden name was Nelson), moved to B.C. in 2005. Rebecca became ATCO’s president, and Scott the CEO.

•••

Congrats to Jason Flexhaug — the owner of Flexy’s Okanagan Fresh Fruit, located on Nelson Avenue across from Hume School. Flexy’s turned 20 this year. Growing up in Osoyoos, he started hustling fruits and veggies as a teenager working with his uncle for a summer, then started his own business, hauling as many as 70 boxes of fruit on the flat bed of his old Toyota pick up.

Flexy’s offers all B.C. tree fruits and berries, field vegetables and other local ground crops. “Buying directly from the farmer ensures the freshest product,” says Flexhaug, “and keeps the money in their pocket, instead of a middle man.”

There’s a bittersweet side to the story though. Over his 20 years in business, Flexy says he’s seen fruit trees and farmers slowly but surely vanish.

“I believe the South Okanagan valley will be in a food production crisis by 2030,” he says, “as many farmers continue to cut down fruit trees and plant wine grapes instead.”

COVID safety procedures are in full effect at Flexy’s so don’t hesitate to drop by for a visit.

“I’ve been here so long that young children I have seen grow up are shopping with me now for their own young families.”

•••

A quick congrats to Tony Maida and Selkirk Paving. The local company received this year’s Exceptional Public Awareness Program Award – Group Category, presented by the ALS Society of BC. Maida is inspired by people living with ALS, in particular Gord Shannon, who he considers his mentor. Gord is the West Kootenay Walk to End ALS co-ordinator and was diagnosed with ALS in 1997.

•••

On the culture front, Touchstones Nelson Museum holds its virtual AGM Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. All members, volunteers and community supporters are invited to at attend. Topics will include successes and challenges of 2019, and look ahead to upcoming projects and events of 2020 and beyond. Email marketing@touchstonesnelson.ca to register or visit our website on Aug. 18 for a Zoom link.

•••

And last but not least, speaking of Touchstones… a fond farewell to Kathleen Nicol, who’s leaving Nelson this month to start a new life with hubby Alex in Victoria. Kathleen has been a weekly fixture in the Shawn Lamb Archives almost every week since 2007. She’s been a mind of information helping researchers and staff answer countless questions. Kathleen has completed dozens of house histories, collection indexing projects and has managed to index all enquiries stretching back over 20 years.

•••

We’ll be back in a few weeks with details on the terrific project underway at the Royal Canadian Legion, where Traction On Demand is givin’ ’er on its new home, under the direction of architect Thomas Loh; the old Oddfellows Hall project at the corner of Kootenay and Baker, courtesy the Bowcock family; and details on Andrew and Korina Rennie’s new Ward Street home for Play It Again Kids.

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