Effects of Pandemic on NewWest Business

In a continuation of the Chamber of Commerce's informative Zoom-powered talk series for New Westminster business leaders, CEO Rnold Smith, hosted a meeting with our city's MLA, Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Tom Conway, CEO of Small Business BC.

The main thrust of the meeting was on the latest updates on how the provincial government and Small Business BC are working to help business in these Covid19 times. As both Darcy and Conway underlined, the provincial government and Small Business BC, respectively, are working hard to tailor programs in response to what they are hearing are the needs in the business community. So hearing from entrepreneurs, understanding their stories, is critical to coming up with good programs.

Darcy, who showed great empathy for the needs of small business owners who have put their heart and souls and finances into their organizations, said that the provincial government has been working on many fronts to help support the business community in coordination with both the federal and municipal governments.  

Among the areas that they have worked on are: changing the property tax framework to benefit both cities and residents; delaying provincial tax filings; providing extra financial support to organizations providing mental health services; and they are now working on a plan for transit systems to maintain essential services – very important for small business. To help cities and its citizens, they have made it possible for municipalities to borrow interest free from their capital reserves so that they can provide needed city services. They also set up Supply Hub where entrepreneurs can input ideas for supplying the needs of front-line workers, which has been very successful.

Conway says that SmallBusinessBC has been inundated with calls.They have developed an extensive website, covid.smallbusinessbc.ca, to help business owners navigate through these times.There, entrepreneurs can find a great deal of information, all well laid out for easy access. The topics include, latest updates on supports available, information on managing your business in these times of change, a directory of small businesses (please add yours to the list), webinars for Covid19 issues, and more. For those wanting one-on-one help, they can phone 1-800-254-4357 or email covid@smallbusinessbc.ca. There is also a chat feature on the site.

Both Darcy and Conway are heartened by the innovation and creativity they are seeing from the small business community. Many businesses have been able to pivot to supply current government and community needs. A local company, Arc'teryx, which makes clothing for outdoor living, has been making thousands of gowns for hospital workers. Other examples include local distilleries making hand sanitizers; another company making masks rather than bags and so on. A local tech entrepreneur has made a self-assessment tool for determining whether one has Covid19; another is working on app for assessing one's personal mental health. Collaboration amongst players in the food service industry has also yielded some good results.

Conway said that they are finding that there are many small businesses, non-profit organizations, contractors, freelancers, gig workers and others are falling through the cracks with respect to financial support from government. He emphasized the importance of advocating on your own behalf – getting your story out there to your MP, your MLA, and to SmallBusinessBC, so that these issues are known and can be acted on.                                                                                                                

Darcy says she has many reasons for optimism. She says, “As a community, here in New Westminster, people have come together in remarkable ways – the way we always do in times of crisis. And she continues, “The fact that we've been listening to Dr. Bonnie Henry, taking orders from this amazing, amazing woman – that means that we are going to come out of this earlier and better than many other jurisdictions.” 

By: Susan Millar

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