Castlegar Businesses on the Road to Recovery
The road to COVID-19 recovery has been challenging for local businesses - having to close, reopen, pivot and adapt has been incredibly trying. To support our businesses, the City of Castlegar, RDCK Areas I and J Directors, Destination Castlegar, the Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce, and a cross-section of business owners from different sectors formed a Business Recovery Committee which includes support from Community Futures Central Kootenay. The Committee’s action plan is being delivered by the Chamber of Commerce which kicked into high gear in March to provide the required support to businesses.
“Our mission statement is to be the strongest voice for local business, encouraging a climate that enables business to prosper,” states Tammy Verigin-Burk, Executive Director. “We knew the key to supporting businesses was to hear directly from them what their needs are and to do everything we can to support them.”
The Chamber surveyed as many businesses as possible in May to gain an understanding of the top issues and where help was needed. Businesses told us the top issues were lack of customers, lack of consumer confidence, cost of personal protection equipment, and employee recruitment. Five businesses were in the process of closing due to COVID-19 and several businesses indicated they were unable to open due to provincial health orders, WorkSafeBC standards, lack of employees, or fear of reopening. One of the hardest hit industries was food and beverage businesses. In order to support this industry, the Committee launched an Eat Local Contest to educate the community on our businesses, increase customers, and provide an incentive for eating at local restaurants. The contest runs until September 8 so the community still has time to enter. Contest cards can be picked up at the Chamber.
With things changing rapidly as a result of COVID-19, the Committee went back to our businesses in August to determine what is needed next. Initial results indicate the following challenges:
- Loss of income/revenue
- Customers not following COVID-19 protocols
- Owner fatigue/burnout
- Lack of customers
- Concern for second wave
The information gathered from businesses steered the direction of the next part of business recovery which includes think & support local and Be Smart (respect the COVID-19 rules) campaigns and additional direct support to businesses through the Chamber. Stay tuned for the exciting launch of these new campaigns.
“Buying local is so important, and now more than ever,” says Dale Donaldson, Owner of Mallard’s Source for Sports. “We’re seeing the direct result of consumers staying close to home and if this trend continues I can see another 1000 jobs locally. Every dollar spent away from our community leaves forever, while the ones spent here can last a long time.”
“Local businesses are the backbone of our vibrant community and the City of Castlegar is doing what it can to support during these unprecedented, tough times,” says Mayor, Bruno Tassone. “This includes the Business Recovery Committee, the open streets pilot project, and creating a long-term economic development strategy to support and grow existing businesses and attract new investment.”
The business recovery efforts will transition into the five-year economic development strategy being developed by Chris Fields and team of Rynic. This work began pre-pandemic but was delayed while the community focused on immediate business recovery needs as a result of COVID-19, Business and community surveys will be launched later this month to ensure everyone has a say in creating a strong, stable and vibrant long-term economy.
For more information, contact:
Bree Seabrook, City of Castlegar