Northern BC business facing elevated challenges in reopening
July 28, 2020, Chetwynd BC - While British Columbia has entered phase three of its Restart Plan, slightly over half (58%) of businesses surveyed in Northern BC are using some form of government support, fewer than in other regions across the province. Businesses expect a substantial “second wave” of negative impacts should these programs expire too quickly.
Only about four-in-ten northern businesses (38%) on government support expect to return to normal once the programs end. Of the remainder, 27% expect to reduce employee hours, 19% expect to lay-off or terminate employees, and 18% anticipate taking on debt. One-in-ten will have to close either temporarily or permanently.
When compared to the rest of the province, more businesses in Northern BC report that reopening requirements are difficult (26%), lack clarity of health and safety requirements (22%), and are expensive to implement (26%). Small businesses are especially hardest hit with 19% reporting that the measures are very expensive compared to 12% of all businesses in Northern BC.
The findings are the results of a fourth survey in a series of pulse checks using the BC Chamber network BCMindReader.com platform that 216 responses from businesses in Northern BC. The provincial survey had 1,401 participants.
As the BC government works on its $1.5 billion recovery plan, bold vision will be required to help businesses survive in the short term and the economy to be competitive and resilient in the future. However, businesses in Northern BC are not particularly confident that the recovery plan will help their business succeed or survive when compared to other regions in the province. Only 14% are confident (16% average in other regions), compared to 55% that are not confident (47% average in other regions).
Businesses say the most important components of the recovery plan are reducing taxes and fees and cutting red tape. Creating better conditions for investment, providing payroll/wage supports, and reducing or making regulations more efficient were other notable suggestions.
Other Key Findings for Northern BC
The pandemic has spurred lasting changes affecting where and how businesses operate:
Of businesses that work in an office setting, 60% are currently working in an office, with the remainder working remotely (22%) or some other way (18%).
Over half see employees returning to the office by the end of the year (74% for whom the question is applicable) but note that 16% do not expect a return until 2021 and 10% do not ever see a return to pre-COVID levels.
The key barriers to getting employees back to the office or workplace are social distancing requirements (27%) employees’ reluctance to return to the workplace due to safety concerns at the workplace (24%) and, to a slightly lesser extent, expensive measures to ensure a safe workplace and adhere to health and safety guidelines (22%).
There is some concern among businesses regarding the clarity and simplicity of health and safety requirements to reopen, each being rated an average of approximately ‘3’ or lower (‘5’ being ‘very easy’ and ‘1’ being ‘extremely difficult’) by 41%.
The most common lasting changes noted are increased reliance on digital means for communications, meetings, etc. (40%), and expanding or implementing work at home policies (27%). Considerable proportions also expect to reduce the number of employees at the workplace (19%), and reduce their office space needs (12%).
Among businesses who travel, the majority do not expect to return to business travel until 2021 or when a vaccine is available. In fact, approximately a third do not expect to return to pre-COVID levels until after a vaccine has been found (18%) or ever (12%).
Ranking support programs
While two-thirds (65%) of businesses surveyed in BC are using some form of government support, only 54% in Northern BC are using government support program – the uptake and accessibility of programs is uneven.
The most useful program has been the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (54%) and, of businesses that qualify, the Canada Emergency Business Account has received strong uptake.
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA), Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP), and Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) have either not been useful or accessible to businesses with only 3%, 3%, and 2%, respectively, ranking these programs as useful.
Impacts on business
There is some concern among businesses regarding the clarity and simplicity of health and safety requirements to reopen, each being rated an average of approximately ‘3’ or lower (‘5’ means ‘very easy’) by 48%. In terms of the cost of implementing the measures, 51% rate the cost ‘3’ or less where ‘5’ means minimal cost.
Small businesses are hardest hit with 67% rating the clarity and simplicity of health and safety requirements a ‘3’ or less where ‘5’ means minimal cost.
Impacts on businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic are similar to those reported in previous Pulse Check surveys, but now we see a higher proportion than in the past, 42%, also report increasing operating costs, likely due to reopening or expanding operations. This level increases to over 60% for medium and large business.
The most common impact continues to be decreased sales volume, reported by 69% of businesses. And again, over four-in-ten report reducing staff hours (48%), laying off employees (37%), and closing temporarily (27%).
Between 26% to 28% have had capital projects, contracts/tenders, or marketing projects either cancelled or deferred.
Positively, 25% have increased their digital or e-commerce presence, and small groups have introduced new products or services (11%), advanced new marketing projects (7%) or advanced new research and development (4%).
Among businesses that have laid off employees, close to four-in-ten (39%) are not sure what they are going to do when the temporary lay-off period ends, while 2% expect to declare insolvency or bankruptcy (the level is likely higher as businesses that have already done so are unlikely to have completed the survey).
“Policy-makers and politicians must stay sensitive to how vulnerable northern BC businesses are today,” Val Litwin, President & CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce said. “Entrepreneurs are waking up to the reality that their new operating environment is more costly and fraught with risk – especially in BC’s rural communities. A bold economic recovery plan that helps small businesses compete is a non-negotiable for a prosperous BC – and when small businesses thrive so do communities and people. Governments must keep focused on delivering their recovery plans swiftly.”
“The recovery of our local businesses is of utmost importance,” Executive Director for the Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce, Naomi Larsen said. “We need to do everything we can to make sure our local economy and the north remains strong and resilient in the face of Covid19. Thank you to all of our businesses who took part in the Pulse Check surveys. Your opinions and your voices are being heard.”
Larsen encourages local and norther business to log onto www.bcmindreader.com today and sign up.
Local small business The Pencil Box ~ Coffee Talk Express gets $10K grant from Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Salesforce
(CHETWYND) – June 29, 2020 – The Canadian Chamber of Commerce announced 62 $10,000 grant recipients from its Canadian Business Resilience Network Small Business Relief Fund today, including The Pencil Box ~ Coffee Talk Express here in Chetwynd.
Owner Ramonda Davidson said The Pencil Box ~ Coffee Talk Express is honoured to be a recipient of the CBRN Small Business Relief Fund.
“We thank the community for their support and my staff who have gone over and above to ensure that our customers and our community are taken care of,” Ramona Davidson, owner of The Pencil Box ~ Coffee Talk Express said, adding the funds will help with extra expenses caused by the Covid19 including PPE such as hand sanitizer and plexiglass barriers. “And it will help reduce some of our debt.”
“This is absolutely wonderful,” Naomi Larsen, Executive Director of the Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce said. “This was a fantastic program and I am so incredibly happy we were able to assist a local business and long-standing member of our Chamber here in our amazing community. Congratulations to Ramona and her staff.”
More than 1100 small businesses across Canada applied for the 62 grants available. The lucky recipients were those that best demonstrated their financial strain, how the business will use the grant to change or innovate, how the change or innovation will sustain the business’s recovery and allow it to prosper, and how the grant will support the role each business plays in their community.
The fund was managed by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and made possible through the generosity of Salesforce (NYSE:CRM). The funding was designed to help small businesses across the country stay afloat and support their recovery efforts, paying salaries, retrofitting their workplaces and acquiring technology to adapt their business model. Salesforce has also provided grants to small businesses in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, in addition to providing other resources.
“Reviewing the applications was both heartbreaking and inspiring, We saw how seriously small businesses across Canada have been hurt by the pandemic, but we also saw how determined these entrepreneurs are to preserve their employees’ jobs and to serve their customers and their communities. Today is a happy waypoint, not an end point, and we won’t stop finding new ways to help Canada’s businesses reopen and recover. We’ll be with them every step of the way,” said Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Canadian Chamber.
“It has been incredible to see the resilience coming from Canada’s small business owners over the last few months. We know it hasn’t been easy,” said Margaret Stuart, Canada Country Manager, Salesforce. “The applicants have further demonstrated what we at Salesforce already knew to be true - that Canada is rich with innovation and entrepreneurial talent. We’re hopeful that these grants will provide essential support to small business owners as they return to work.”
A complete list of the winners can be found here.
About Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce is a network for entrepreneurial business and professional leaders to partner in representation, communication and education. We provide our members with: Networking, Group Benefits and affordable Marketing and Advertising opportunities and most importantly a Voice of Business, as a collective group. Come join our 130+ businesses in the Chetwynd area who recognize the value of the chamber network.
For more information, please contact:
Naomi Larsen Phil Taylor
Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce Canadian Chamber of Commerce