Tom Thomson is executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Tyler Harper

Tom Thomson is executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Tyler Harper

COLUMN: Think local first more vital than ever

Tom Thomson writes about how the Chamber of Commerce is helping local business

By Tom Thomson

If you wander down Baker Street you will see a busy downtown, with much of the vibrancy you would experience on a normal summer day, and that level of activity has given pause to some individuals that the pandemic is over and we don’t have anything to worry about.

We think…busy…that’s great! But there is still a segment of the local community who are concerned with the added activity and occasional complacent physical distancing measures, so we continue to walk the line. We can not afford to get complacent with our retail or dining operations. Our businesses are in a very precarious position and could close permanently with a failed or partial restart. Make sure your staff and clients observe protocols.

We simply cannot afford another closure. While we should be excited about where the province is at we should be under no illusions that COVID-19 is gone.

We are far from out of the woods.

To that end, the Chamber is working closely with the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership (NAEDP), the City of Nelson, the recovery manager and a multi-business and multi-sectoral task force. We are now actively involved in implementing community recovery plans and actions as we move through Stage 3 of the recovery process.

More than three months into the COVID-19 crisis, it is not hyperbole to say thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses in B.C. are hanging by a thread. But the Chamber has been working hard on behalf of business with advocacy and communication to all levels of government.

Our network and senior partners at the B.C. Chamber and Canadian Chambers of Commerce have been working directly with senior levels of government and other business organizations and are responsible for many of the COVID-19 relief programs rolled out to assist with financial assistance for local business.

The Chamber, through our network and with our economic development partners at NAEDP, have advocated for municipal and regional assistance, many of the programs included in the City of Nelson’s 25-point economic stimulus plan to assist businesses, from tax deferrals to waiving of patio fees for bars and restaurants, to new temporary patio regulations.

As well, local business feedback helped shape the federal and provincial emergency response funding for COVID-19.

We relayed your requests for immediate relief and flexibility on tax remittance, provincial school tax on commercial property, and further wage replacement programs. We’re pleased to have seen deferred tax filing and payment deadlines, relief on PST and Employer Health Tax, a 50 per cent cut on property school taxes and an increase to the wage subsidy to 75 per cent. Our efforts have not ended, and we commit to being with you through the process.

We applaud the city for many of the stimulus measures. Businesses in Nelson and area are clearly struggling to return to profitability, some simply looking to survive. It is still long struggle ahead, and more measures from all levels of government will be required.

For many operators, their prospects might be shifting as they reopen and begin seeing more people returning to outdoor patios, shopping, camping, hiking and enjoying local attractions like ziplines, rafting, paddleboard, kayak and bike rentals.

Nelson area business owners have gone through every emotion over the past four months. The impact of COVID-19 on the business community was immediate and unlike anything faced in generations, so we need to come together as a community and support businesses now more than ever.

Let’s work together to keep the doors open at our favourite places.

Tom Thomson is executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.