There wasn’t much that escaped COVID’s ever-rippling effects, but with the shutdown orders keeping people indoors and an increased reliance on virtual shopping, Hope’s brick and mortar shops were especially hard hit.
And along with them, the local Chamber of Commerce also nearly closed up shop, with its members unable to keep it active during such a tumultuous time.
“Everyone (in the Chamber) is a volunteer, so they all had to go back and look after their business and family,” explained Victor Smith, who’s spearheading the reboot of Hope’s Chamber. “So we wanted to get it back up and running again.”
And businesses are interested in joining, says Smith, who’s the Chamber’s newest president. “We’ve gone from three paid members to 45 … (and) we have an executive director, which we haven’t had in years.”
There’s also a 12-person board, he added.
However, because of the all-encompassing nature of COVID’s effects, the largest draw for local businesses is perhaps the insurance policies that are available through the Chamber, said Smith, who has previously served as Chamber president.
“With everything that happened with COVID, the big thing that we offer is a dental and medical plan. It’s the best value plan for businesses with less than 50 employees in Canada,” continued Smith.
“That’s an extra benefit …to offer because right now there’s a shortage of employees. As you know, everyone in the country is trying to hire somebody.”
But more than offering health benefits, a Chamber membership also provides a variety of services and savings plans to help its members lower their costs and increase their profits.
The core goal of the Chamber is “to interact with business and (help) make (their) tills ring, (so they) can give back to the community (because) you can’t give what you don’t have. So we need to support (our local businesses),” Smith said.
It’s not just locally that the Chamber of Commerce is important, either: the BC Chamber of Commerce is the largest and most broadly-based business organization in B.C., and in late-July they announced the launch of seven Regional Resource Guides designed to support small business.
The provincial government is also allocating $5.5 million to support Chamber of Commerce buy local programming, which, Smith says, they’re definitely applying for. The more money the Chamber can raise, the more they can do for the community at large through the improvement of the local economy.
To facilitate local businesses increase their customer foot-traffic, the Hope Chamber of Commerce is partnering to host this year’s Chainsaw Carving Competition (Aug. 19-22), as well as a sidewalk sale (Aug. 21), and a “big Christmas thing.”
And with only one empty storefront on Hope’s main drag, Smith says things have definitely improved for local companies, but hopes the Chamber’s reboot helps both local businesses in need of assistance, as well as those who managed to continue operating as close to usual as possible during a global pandemic.
“We wanted (to just) get it back up and running again … so we (can help local businesses) look (and plan for) the future.”
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