Discussion with Business Leaders - part 4
“Adjustment” is the order of the day for the businesses of New Westminster, after having overcome the initial shock of the Covid19 shutdown. That, according to several of the key players in New Westminster City's working group on economic development during these worrying times.
Chamber of Commerce's CEO, Rnold Smith, led a Zoom discussion for local small business owners featuring Blair Fryer, the city's Manager of Economic Development, Kendra Johnston, the Executive Director of the Downtown BIA (business association) and Bart Slotman, President of the Uptown BIA.
Business owners and managers are realizing now that it is not a short-lived bump on the road that must be overcome, but it is a new era that lies ahead. “Adaptation” is the name of the game to survive and thrive. The old business models, for the many, just won't work.
Of course, the immediate need for many is “cash flow”, which the city's Blair Fryer acknowledged. By constituting the business working group for dealing with the current economic climate, they have come up with a number of things that can be done that come under the municipality's purview, including providing relief on electrical bills and setting up a security program for commercial areas, where there is increased potential for vandalism. The city has also enhanced and extended their 'Support Local' program and retooled their InvestNewWest.ca website to direct owners to list their businesses and explain any measures taken to deal with Covid19. On the website, owners can also find an extensive list of resources.
BIA leaders, Kendra Johnston and Bart Slotman, both spoke to the challenges of business in their constituencies, some of whom may find it impossible to survive. Restaurants, in particular, are hard-hit, and the reduced seating capacity in future may make their current business models non-viable. Some are coming up with novel ways to sustain business, including re-jigging their restaurants to be largely for take-out food. One is providing meal kits – the ingredients and cooking instructions for a good meal. Some are offering grocery items (including baked goods) online.
Also mentioned: London Drugs is providing shelf space for local small business goods, as is Donald's food market for shop owners in River Market. The city is also looking to extend sidewalk space for outdoor patios – a common feature in Montreal.
Bart Slotman says that many offices are having to think through how to reduce the density of their workers in their space. Transitioning to flex hours and having people work at home more are some of the plans. Many walk-in stores are thinking through their spaces and adding plexiglass shields, where necessary.
Participants in the Zoom discussion brought up some of their concerns, including the plight of micro-home-based businesses and the need for learning about social media use for promotion, as examples. Suggestions were offered including web help from local knowledge-holders, and also from Small Business BC.
Blair Fryer, Kendra Johnston and Bart Slotman all found hope in the fact that many New Westminster businesses are acting cooperatively and creatively to make things work.
To see the full session on video, go to NewWest.tv. Look for the Chamber of Commerce session called 'Virtual Discussion with Small Business Leaders', May 5, 2020.
by: Susan Millar