The results of last year’s business walk survey conducted by the Village of Burns Lake and the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce are out and they are a mixed bag.
A total of 20 businesses were interviewed during the business walk. This number was much lower than the 52 business owners interviewed in 2019.
“Of the 20 businesses interviewed during the 2020 business walk, 90 per cent reported their current state of their business to be good and increasing. Only one business out of those interviewed had applied for any COVID-19 relief programs,” said Sheryl Worthing, the chief administrative officer for the village.
Overall, 80 per cent of businesses said that their sales were supported by local residents. However, many business owners also expressed their concerns over the increase of online shopping.
Of the participating businesses, 50 per cent faced challenges finding workers.
“No one local wants to work. It’s hard to compete with the pipeline jobs. No young people want to work,” said one business owner. Some said that finding workers for day shifts was tough while some others even said that while staffing was doing okay for them, the extra sanitation work that is required due to the pandemic, is “overwhelming”.
“We gave employees raise due to Covid but still having a lot of trouble filling staff positions,” said one business owner while one suggested that the village and the chamber “help find workers such as hosting a local job board to post jobs and job seekers can find local work.”
“Labour pool is lower this year as some people are needing to stay back for health reasons or are caregivers or have a fear of going back due to the pandemic,” said Burns Lake’s Economic Development Officer Lorie Watson, who took part in the susiness walk, in a report to village council.
Making note of the issue of increase in online shopping, from previous years, the Village has partnered with Rio Tinto to offer a business accelerator program to support local businesses with transitioning their businesses online.
The program will serve as a pilot program that will select up to 25 local businesses to participate. A village-hired consultant will then work one-on-one with the each business to provide them with business websites, train the business owners on how to maintain and increase the online presence, setup e-commerce options for businesses, provide technical support and help the business in building a digital footprint to help them long-term in their business goals.