Businesses across the country are reeling with the effects of coronavirus and measures to control it, but one expert on the Stettler region business community said cooperation and support are key.
Stettler Board of Trade (BOT) executive director Stacey Benjamin said the coronavirus pandemic has had a number of effects on the local business community and its annual events, including the ever-popular trade show.
The provincial government has forbidden any gathering of more than 15 people in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s pretty unfortunate the way it’s affecting the trade show,” said Benjamin by phone from her office Apr. 8.
Benjamin said the trade show is not only one of the major ways local businesses get the word out about their operations every spring, but it’s also a major revenue generator for the BOT.
Plus, this year’s trade show had an even more special event to celebrate: it’s the trade show’s 40th anniversary.
She said the BOT has a lot of great plans in store for the 40th annual event but for now, the only thing to do is watch the way the pandemic is evolving and follow measures being issued by the provincial and federal governments.
The event has tentatively been postponed to June 12 to 14.
She noted if the event gets delayed into the autumn, it probably will have to be cancelled.
The fall season is extremely busy for the BOT which can’t accommodate the trade show on top of everything else.
Benjamin said, looking at how the business community, in general, has been coping with the pandemic and subsequent measures, she’s very proud of the response, especially the way retail businesses have stepped up to offer curbside and delivery service.
However, she noted it was sad to see business closures mandated by the government because it obviously means those businesses can’t generate income.
The executive director notes the BOT has been keeping in touch with manufacturing companies to monitor their situation.
She also noted the effect coronavirus measures have had on the restaurant community, although many still have the options of offering take-out, delivery or drive-thru service.
A vital sector of the local business community is farm/agriculture and Benjamin stated the sector appears to be doing fairly well.
Agriculture businesses have been considered essential, so haven’t had as many measures placed on them.
She said it will be important to watch how the spring seeding season goes as the season has a big impact on Stettler’s economy.
The BOT has three areas of concern it’s watching right now, firstly the retail sector, which has been hit hard by closures intended to limit human contact where coronavirus could be spread.
Secondly, Benjamin stated the oil and gas sector is having a very tough time right now not only from coronavirus but from very low prices.
Lastly, the manufacturing sector is coping with factors like social distancing, which is limiting staff, slowing things down and affecting output.
Benjamin said something that’s really impressed her throughout the coronavirus outbreak is the way Stettler-region businesses are supporting each other through working together and marketing each other.
Benjamin said everyone is affected by this but Stettler is a resilient, supportive community.
She noted, however, it would be nice to see gaps in government support addressed.
Small businesses, including “mom and pop” operations, can sometimes fall through those gaps as they don’t always meet the requirements for government help.
Benjamin noted the BOT has been working closely with the Town of Stettler and Stettler County emergency operations centre to monitor and collect information about the coronavirus pandemic.
If business owners need information they can contact the Board of Trade at 403-742-3181 but remember their office is currently closed to the public, so phone ahead first.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter