On the occasion of Small Business Week in BC (Oct. 16- 22) Bill Kershaw, President of the Barriere & Area Chamber of Commerce reflects on how small businesses their community held steady during the COVID-19 pandemic wave.
Much of that is owed to the community members of Barriere who decided to shop local after the pandemic struck, he says.
“All small businesses were affected in the province, but in Barriere, I think we weren’t as bad off as some communities because we’re a little bit rural,” said Kershaw
“I know on our MRDT, for the tourism dollar, and the seven per cent tax we actually maintained ourselves over a little bit up so that instead of relying on traffic coming through, we were receiving more business from locals that shopped local and stayed local and I think that had a positive effect on our small businesses in Barriere.”
Small businesses are the backbones of small communities, no matter how you look at it, he says, adding, it is crucial for communities and local governments to support them.
One of the ways of going about this is by making it affordable for small businesses to stay in town by not overtaxing them, he said. The chamber spends a lot of time trying to get people to support local business through advertising, social media and other available forums, he said.
Kershaw says it is important to support local people, buy local products and not overtax businesses for them to thrive in small communities especially when they are navigating many challenges.
Small business in Barriere continue to be affected by the labour and housing shortages. And the Chamber has been working with the local First Nations and the District of Barriere to address these issues and find solutions, said Kershaw.
“There’s some discussing and process where we might have to build small complexes to house employees, built in partnership with Paradigm Building Solutions.”
Having accommodations in place is most important, Kershaw says, because that’s where the biggest shortage is,
“People can’t come here to work if there is no place to stay so we have to build accommodation not only for low, affordable living, but we have to build them also to accommodate employees.”
As the economy reels out the pandemic collapse and is slowly recovering, it is also time to rebuild and diversify Barriere’s economy. And while there is room for the diversification, there is also a general consensus that Barriere wants to retain its rural status. A solution would be to make more room for agriculture, says Kershaw.
“We can become a self sufficient community if we keep our agricultural land that we have, smaller acreages within our community, and can start producing some of our own food.” Using vacant land as well as turning derelict building spaces into a space where people can grow food can be an option to look at in the future, he said.
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