Organizations are joining forces to ensure businesses in the High Country are getting the tools they need to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Diamond Valley Business Ecosystem formed in late March to connect with businesses in the High Country area in an effort to share resources, funding options, mental health opportunities and other resources needed as they navigate through the pandemic.
The ecosystem was developed through the Foothills Business Recovery Task Force, established by Foothills MP John Barlow, and consists of representatives from nearby municipalities, the Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce, Highwood Community Futures, Foothills Tourism Association, Bow Valley College and the Black Diamond and Turner Valley Intermunicipal Economic Development Committee (IEDC), among others.
Andrea Glowatsky, president of the Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the ecosystem stakeholders are already working with businesses to share resources, connect them with other merchants and finding out what their needs are. She’s among them.
“As a group we’re giving them the resources to talk to somebody about how they can stay open,” she said. “We’re sharing information and directing them to the right people to talk to. Things change every day so it’s hard to keep up with who is doing what and who is in business.”
The stakeholders arranged a weekly Monday Mingle at 4 p.m. where stakeholders and businesses participate in a Zoom chat to bounce ideas off of each other and determine who needs assistance and who can offer it, Glowatsky said.
Each stakeholder has his or her own task and works with other ecosystems in the region, she said.
“As a group we’ve come together quickly and everybody is working together to make sure that our businesses and our communities keep thriving and they have the support they need,” she said. “Even when this is over it’s still our intention to keep working together because together we’re stronger.”
Another group supporting local businesses is the Black Diamond and Turner Valley Intermunicipal Economic Development Committee, formed last year through the two municipalities.
Vice-chair Chelsea Vogel said the committee is working on the best plan possible to help businesses with the struggles they're facing during the COVID-19 crisis, but it doesn't want to duplicate efforts.
“We want to ensure that we’re pooling our resources and not duplicating what someone else is doing,” she said. “Our focus is supporting the businesses in a way no one else is so we can have all bases and areas covered.”
Like the business ecosystem, the IEDC is reaching out to businesses.
“Since we are made up of council members plus six members at large (businesses owners) we have the advantage of being able to really hear what business owners are saying because our ears are to the ground trying to do what we can as business owners for other business owners,” said Vogel. “Gathering this pertinent information will help the committee connect, support and guide businesses in ways they need.”
The committee has committed to promoting businesses, local shopping and tourism with the guidance of its marketing plan - which it’s currently in the process of finalizing - and establishing how to support businesses throughout the pandemic, followed by business retention, Vogel said.
“Having these committees working on different aspects for businesses and with businesses is going to allow us to work towards a thriving business community in both Turner Valley and Black Diamond,” she said.
And the pressure is on, considering the detrimental impact COVID-19 is having on businesses, Vogel said.
“It has not only forced the closure of small businesses, but decreased tourism as well,” she said. “Having said that, it has also forced businesses to think outside of the box, adjust and make changes to the way they run and market their products and services. It has brought the community closer together and individuals reaching out to ask what business they can support this week or who's open so we can buy something from them.”
As an entrepreneur and someone who’s been dedicated to small businesses for years, Vogel is ecstatic to see business people in the communities come together.
“I truly believe that our community will get through this if we continue to stick together, pool our resources and offer every ounce of support we can so our business community can re-open after this is over,” she said. “It will not be easy, but this will be a hurdle we all can say we climbed over, and be proud that we got through this.”
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