Tom Thomson presents the State of the Sector reports published by the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Submitted

Tom Thomson presents the State of the Sector reports published by the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Submitted

NEWS AND VIEWS: Rising challenges for business sectors as pandemic recovery continues

Tom Thomson writes about findings from the State of the Sector reports

The precautions taken in our province and country to prevent the spread of COVID-19 the past two and half years have brought unprecedented challenges to employers in Nelson and area.

The Chamber in collaboration with our economic development partners has been working tirelessly on behalf of business and sharing vital information, providing access to assistance programs, and doing what we do best, which is advocating on behalf of businesses to all levels of government.

Since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted earlier this spring, the Chamber and businesses in the hospitality, food and beverage, arts and retail sectors gained some renewed confidence of turning the corner, but there is clearly work left to do.

The Chamber board wanted to draw on the front-line experience of dozens of the region’s business owners. We held round tables and one-on-one interviews with over 75 members of the local business community. The consultation results provide a timely understanding of the issues local entrepreneurs are facing in the food and beverage, retail and building and construction sectors. The Chambers economic development partner Community Futures has also produced a case study on the arts, culture and heritage sectors.

The State of the Sector reports polled business owners from Nelson, Salmo/Ymir, Taghum, Ainsworth, Balfour and Harrop/Proctor on a wide skew of business issues including labour attraction and retention, inflation and fuel, employee and management housing, insurance and financing, supply chain, sick pay legislation, disaster preparedness, climate change and seasonal business reliance, e-commerce, municipal and regional government interaction, and COVID recovery assistance from the provincial and federal governments.

The studies do more than simply track challenges. Armed with the insight we garnered, we then inventoried opportunities for support, and advocacy — which is one of the Chamber’s primary roles in the business community. So, our work is cut out for us on the advocacy front and we are certainly prepared to keep our sleeves rolled up and continue that important work.

In fact, advocacy never really stops. Many positions have already been framed through the policies that are adopted annually by the B.C. and Canadian Chambers of Commerce.

As we emerge from the pandemic we have reasons for optimism, and that with governments and businesses working together we can seize the opportunities before us and overcome the challenges that we face. The recent BC Chamber AGM allowed meaningful discussions and policy approval about how to address B.C.’s competitiveness, the resiliency of our supply chain, and the critical role that housing, daycare and inter-community transportation plays as we navigate an acute skilled labour shortage.

In all, 53 resolutions were debated and adopted. The policies cover a broad spectrum of provincial and federal issues critical to the success of B.C.’s business community, such as taxation, Indigenous reconciliation, forestry, infrastructure, and workforce issues. Some of the key policies that were adopted for advocacy at the provincial and or federal government level include:

• Progressive housing solutions to address the workforce housing challenges

• Helping B.C. Employers survive the labour crisis: BC PNP Improvements

• Amending the B.C. Paid Sick Leave program

• Ensuring old-growth protection and sustainable forestry strategies while also supporting B.C.’s regional economies and business communities

• A role for businesses and industry stakeholders in the implementation of the declaration on the rights of Indigenous people action plan

• Filling the province’s nursing schools

• Improving primary care and saving healthcare money with physician extender/physician assistants

• Revamping the provincial disaster financial assistance program to address the realities of climate change

• The cost of prolific offenders on the local economy

The BC Chamber Policy Manual and the State of the Sectors Case Studies can be found on the Chamber website at www.discovernelson.com

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