COCHRANE— Calling on Cochrane residents to shop local during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce is finding innovative ways to support the local economy.
The Chamber is doing what it can to provide support to business members, said Cochrane Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Kelly Sinclair, adding that a major initiative has been a partnership with the Cochrane Tourism Association and Town of Cochrane Business Development to host virtual weekly collaboration calls.
“Absolutely every business has been affected,” Sinclair said. “It’s a big adjustment.”
It is difficult to forecast what the future holds, Sinclair said, but the Chamber is optimistic there will be a recovery when the public health measures introduced to reduce the spread of the virus are reduced.
The challenging aspect when talking about economic recovery, she said, is that it is uncertain when it can begin.
The Chamber is encouraging the Cochrane community to support local businesses as best they can so they can survive the COVID-19 pandemic and economic collapse. Actions residents can take include ordering food from local restaurants and purchasing from local retail stores that are open and offering different ways of delivering products.
“There’s different ways that individuals within the local community can be contributing to the overall prosperity of our economy to help,” Sinclair said.
It has been a herculean task adjusting to the uncertainty created by the public health emergency, she said, adding that this has created stress because it is unclear when life can return to any semblance of normal.
In the meantime, it can prove challenging because there is not always a clear path on the different models businesses can pivot to during the pandemic.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Sinclair said, explaining that this has fuelled the Chambers's commitment to provide connections and supports for local businesses to the best of their ability using online collaborations. “We’re doing our best as a Chamber to support what we can right now given the information that is available."
The Chamber has also created an online platform for business members to connect with each other and share information on ways they are adjusting practices during the pandemic. A guide on how to access resources and subsidy programs offered by the government has also been included online.
“We’re just trying to create a centralized place for them to have information,” Sinclair said.
Businesses that have been able to stay open to provide essential services have adjusted how they are delivering services. As an example, she said restaurants have begun offering curbside pickup and using different tools to facilitate the administration of services.
Staffing adjustments are also taking place to abide by the health and safety regulations introduced by the provincial government.
Many other businesses have been forced to close their doors indefinitely because of the virus, she said.
Sinclair added that it has been impressed seeing the innovations business are taking to adjust their practices quickly in response to the pandemic. Sinclair cited youth program instructors that teach karate and dance moving online to deliver services to clients as an example.
“I think they’re doing the best with what they have and I’m really glad to see that kind of innovation that’s happening,” Sinclair said.