Now is the time to think locally to keep the Okotoks economic community as healthy as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to pull the heartstrings of shopping local more than ever during disasters like this,” said Angela Groeneveld, Okotoks economic development manager. “I know it’s easy to shop online and get it delivered, but if you can shop online locally and get it delivered locally, those will be the businesses that are trying to recover in order to sponsor your sports team or that non-profit organization.”
She said while it may be cheaper to go to Amazon, Okotoks area businesses are contributing more to the local economy than the giant corporation.
Groeneveld is also a specialist in economic disaster recovery, previously having worked with the High River 2013 flood recovery, assisting Fort McMurray in 2016 and others — going as far back as the BSE outbreak of 2003.
She said it is key for businesses to find any “gaps” during the COVID-19 disaster.
“You (entrepreneurs) have to have a shift in the mindset right now of doing business differently,” Groeneveld said. “The no. 1 way to do this is for businesses to reach out to their clientele and ask ‘what do you need?, ‘how can I serve you?’ and find that new gap.”
She said for example Foothills area business JRR barbecue quickly changed its business of catering and selling barbecue to a ‘Skip the Dishes’ type delivery.
“Nine dollar meals delivered right to your house, this is how you order,’’’ Groeneveld said. “He had to act fast to keep the cash flow flowing.
“That’s the no. 1 thing that business owners can do — get very clear with your communications to customers, get online, get your social media presence going.”
She said stakeholders, such as the Okotoks Chamber of Commerce, Okotoks Economic Development, the new Okotoks Downtown Business Association and others, have to keep the businesses informed and help them with the process of working with government programs.
She said most definitely businesses are hurting.
Groeneveld interviewed Okotoks restaurateurs on March 14 from 5 to 8 p.m. and was informed business were operating at a 30 per cent capacity.
“We need to stay calm, we need to stay healthy, which means mental stress, especially for entrepreneurs,” Groeneveld. “They have to make that a priority to themselves.
“Leave it to the government officials, leave it to the stakeholders to get the resources and we will try to find as much business coaching as we can available.”
Jayme Hall, Okotoks Chamber of Commerce executive director, said it has been difficult to keep up in the changing world.
“What was the right answer yesterday may not be the right answer today,” Hall said. “Right now, we are working with the Canadian and provincial networks to help negotiate through this.”
The Okotoks chamber has established a page to help with the difficulties in what is a sudden disruption.
At present the Okotoks Entrepreneurial EcoSystem is working on strategies to assist businesses.
“We are going to work together as an ecosystem to support our individual networks and the business as a whole,” Hall said.
The ecosystem was scheduled to have a meeting on March 17 dealing with the COVID-19 issue. .
To see the chamber’s page on pandemic preparedness go to https://okotokschamber.ca/pandemic-preparedness
The chamber has cancelled its March 18 meeting scheduled for noon.
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