Businesses in Northern B.C. are facing more uncertainty than other regions as the province enters phase three of its restart plan, finds the latest BC Chamber of Commerce BCMindReader business survey.
“Policy-makers and politicians must stay sensitive to how vulnerable Northern B.C. businesses are today,” said Val Litwin, president and chief executive officer, B.C. Chamber of Commerce in a news release. “Entrepreneurs are waking up to the reality that their new operating environment is more costly and fraught with risk – especially in B.C.’s rural communities.”
The survey, which was the fourth in a series, found 58 per cent of businesses in the North were accessing government support, which is fewer than other parts of the province. It also showed only four in 10 businesses on government support expect to return to normal once government support programs end. Others expect to reduce employee hours, some expect to lay off or terminate employees, while 18 per cent anticipate taking on debt. One in 10 will have to close either temporarily or permanently.
Some of the other findings for Northern B.C. showed of businesses that work in an office setting, 60 per cent are currently working in an office, with the remainder working remotely or some other way.
Over half think employees will return to the office by the end of the year, 16 per cent do not expect a return until 2021 and 10 per cent do not ever see a return to pre-COVID levels.
The key barriers to getting employees back to the office or workplace are social distancing requirements (27 per cent) employees’ reluctance to return to the workplace due to safety concerns at the workplace (24 per cent ) and, to a slightly lesser extent, expensive measures to ensure a safe workplace and adhere to health and safety guidelines (22 per cent).
Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce manager Kathy Somerville encourages business owners to go to the BC Chamber of Commerce website and participate in the BCMindReader.com surveys.
“It’s one of the biggest ways to get your voice heard to government,” Somerville said. “The BC and Canadian chamber of commerces are the only ones of any groups that are invited to government meetings.”
While the BC Chamber surveys don’t break it down to specific cities and towns, locally the chamber, City of Quesnel and Community Futures North Cariboo used the Thought Exchange platform to ask local businesses about the major challenges they are facing.
They received 83 respondents that identified 114 different challenges.
From that survey, a list of the top five challenges were identified.
They included finding clear and consistent messaging in regard to Covid-19 health and safety regulations, pivoting to a new market locally and, or developing online sales, accessing Covid-19 financial supports, contraction of the local forest-sector economy, and uncertainty about the future and recruiting and retaining employees, both skilled and unskilled.
Responding, the team provided resource links, planned programs and resources that might help to address the concerns.
Anyone interested in reading the full report and responses should visit https://my.thoughtexchange.com/report/0f9d40683fc8a58b55c1e5f923e2b40f.