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

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

NEWS AND VIEWS: Businesses still need assistance even in a more normal summer

Tom Thomson writes about a new Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce initiative

by Tom Thomson

The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce and our economic development partners are hitting the streets to dig deeper into the local and regional recovery needs of area businesses.

Through support of the Economic Development Trust (ETSI-BC) the chamber has hired a business recovery advisor. Long-time journalist, broadcaster, communications specialist, and marketing consultant Darren Davidson (darren@discovernelson.com) is taking on the business outreach role for the Chamber and will be knocking on doors and engaging with businesses. Community Futures is providing support through economic development intern Jenna Annett.

Throughout the pandemic the chamber and our partners at the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership (NAEDP) have been diligent with business outreach phone calls, roundtables, business information webinars and literal business survival strategies. The information uncovered and the scope of work developed in our NAEDP COVID business recovery strategy aligns with the ETSI BC Rural Business and Community Recovery program.

The Chamber Board of Directors and our economic development partners truly appreciate the support of ETSI-BC and the provincial government for providing these recovery funds for our region. We feel we have been at the forefront supporting businesses through the pandemic and this funding will allow us to provide even more extensive business outreach within our catchment but also into the north and south corridor from Nelson. We believe with the resources available and new resources being developed through the BC Chamber we will be able to knock on more doors and assist businesses through to recovery.

The Chamber has been working tirelessly on behalf of businesses and community organizations. When the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, we collaborated with our local economic development partners and utilized the BC Chamber of Commerce, BCMindReader.com pulse check surveys to gauge the immediate needs of our business community. We have been proud to support business in Nelson and Area by powering decision making from all levels of government and influencing fiscal support programs.

More work and more assistance is required as the slow, fragile recovery continues.

The latest BC Mindreader Pulsecheck released on June 3 shows businesses were still struggling to survive amid the Circuit Breaker restrictions that were in place through the May long weekend.

Province-wide impacts on business

• 36 per cent of businesses report that they are in poor or very poor shape

• 15 per cent of businesses report that they expect to operate for less than three months given current restrictions, support measures and operating costs

• Six per cent of businesses report that they have closed or that their revenue has fallen by 100 per cent.

• The most common impact continues to be decreased sales volume, reported by 72 per cent of businesses, with 41 per cent of businesses reporting that their revenue has decreased by over 25 per cent since early April 2021.

Government recovery plan and support

• 68 per cent of businesses are using some form of government support program during the pandemic. The most useful program has been the wage subsidy CEWS program at 41 per cent, followed by CEBA (40 per cent), and rental assistance CERA (23 per cent).

Businesses note that government support programs would be most helpful if they provided:

• Greater tax relief (40 per cent)

• More support for wages (33 per cent)

• More effective cash flow relief (29 per cent)

Long-term impacts

Since the beginning of the pandemic, businesses report that the following areas have worsened:

• Cost of doing business (67 per cent)

• Access to labour (41 per cent, up nine per cent from previous survey)

• Availability of workers (40 per cent, up seven per cent from previous survey)

• Cost of the labour needed (40 per cent)

• Skill of the labour pool available (32 per cent)

Expect to hear from Darren Davidson and the Chamber over the coming months.

We want to know what your concerns about the current or future challenges your business will face based on the impact of the pandemic such as decreased profitability, debt load, reduced capacities, staffing shortages or rent relief.

And any good news or success stories to share? Did your business in anyway improve? For example, increased staff and/or customer loyalty, improved customer service, online/digitized economy pivots, increased investment in your business and its physical venue, shipping/receiving/delivery, operational procedures, financial management, better business model, improved products/services, supply chain management, management techniques, corporate culture, etc?

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

Business