The economic downturn pre-pandemic, further augmented by COVID-19 and the various levels of restrictions, has caused significant challenges and impacts on our businesses. The impacts have been varied, dependent on the industry, perceptions, adaptations, along with accessibility and implementation of funding and resources to assist businesses through those difficult times.
Through it all, we must better understand the practices that have most negatively impacted businesses and the overall economy to mitigate these effects in the future. We also need to identify strategies and policies that can be implemented to improve business outcomes and our economic prosperity in our roadmap to recovery.
For this reason, the Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey and analysis to identify the significant impacts of Covid-19 on our business community. The project evaluated existing pre-pandemic data from the Business Retention Expansion and Workforce Development Survey to determine any substantial changes or emerging priorities while also looking at commonalities within the Regional Vitality Report.
The recent report analyzed business impacts and financing, along with business supports, workforce development, and technology adoption, to determine our short-term outlook and longer-term opportunities.
Twelve themes emerged to support economic prosperity in the future, along with some prevention practices and protocols to mitigate significant impacts in the future as follows.
SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT
Governments will need to evaluate the impacts of their decisions on small businesses and provide continued support and consistency in policies, plans and information.
ACCESS TO CAPITAL AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT:
Governments and financial institutions will need to evaluate fiscal policies related to access to capital and creating greater ease and efficiency in accessing financial supports.
COST CERTAINTY AND PRICE STABILITY
Businesses need cost certainty and price stability, including business costs such as taxation and utilities, to mitigate risk and manage unpredictable fluctuations and provide price stability to their consumers.
Governments will need to look at viable options for privatization and streamlining the size of government.
BUSINESS EXPANSION AND DIVERSIFICATION
Businesses will need to look at avenues to scale and expand their business operations and evaluate opportunities to expand and diversify their product or service offerings. Governments will also need to assess their assets and attract diverse industries that complement existing land, services, supports and supply chains.
Governments must plan for present infrastructure needs and future infrastructure and possible projects that could effectively provide further economic stimulus and long-term benefit during an economic downturn.
Governments will need to look at their overall municipal development plans and how they can influence growth in the short and long term, not only in infrastructure investments but also in commercialization, technology and innovation development.
Governments will need to look at targeted supports for downtown development and removing any potential barriers for investment in a downtown core.
Businesses need to understand their customers’ habits better and create business strategies and planning for the future.
MARKETING AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Businesses need to increase their online digital presence through not only a web presence but also through google listings, e-commerce sites and social media accounts to expand their customer reach and revenue potential.
TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
Businesses need the knowledge and resources to understand and implement technology and innovation strategies. Governments, business organizations and educational institutions must further work together to identify the gaps in technology and innovation and increase awareness and accessibility to technology solutions and increase the education and awareness of innovative solutions.
Businesses will need to look at how they train their existing and future workforce. Governments, educational institutions, and companies will need to collaborate to identify workforce training needs, identify training facilities, new training opportunities, and various education and training delivery methods. Governments will need to look at ways to incentivize both employers and the workforce, removing potential barriers for skill development and continuing education through tax breaks and training subsidies such as the Canada-Alberta Job Grant.
Business organizations and educational institutions will need to collaborate on developing a platform or tools that provide better job matching capabilities, providing the option for employers to search employees by resume and skills set, while also providing employees to search for and apply for relevant job opportunities.
Businesses will need to use various methods and incentives for recruitment and highlight the regional benefits, costs of living, wage comparisons, lifestyle options, and affordable professional development opportunities in our region.
Businesses need training on retention methods, including access to mental health and wellness supports, team and culture building opportunities, professional development for employers, and an understanding of turnover costs.
PREVENTION PROTOCOLS, PLANS AND PRACTICES
Governments need to ensure they have updated pandemic and emergency response plans and templates for the future, including communication strategies, clearly defined protocols, processes, and guidelines to better equip them to effectively address future crises and pandemics. There must be template plans and guidelines for businesses that provide consistency and clarity and clear methods of effectively engaging and informing all businesses and residents. Companies will also need pandemic and emergency preparedness plans, in addition to business continuity plans, so that they are better equipped to adapt and respond to situations more quickly and efficiently, mitigating the adverse short- and long-term effects that can occur.
The report further expanded on four key initiatives: attracting and retaining talent, community brand marketing, business community collaboration, and embracing technology and innovation.
Clear, transparent and timely communication will continue to be critical as we recover. We need well-defined plans and communication strategies to build from in the future and we need to work together to minimize uncertainty and mitigate some of the negative impacts on the economy that may arise in the future.
While this only covers a high-level summary of our recent report, you can view the full report on the Chamber’s publications page. We welcome any ongoing input into economic issues and opportunities to further the region’s economic prosperity and vitality.
We continue to encourage our business community to connect with us to learn about various resources and supports, visit our website and our Covid-19 information page and join us today. We’re here to help build our future together.