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Kim Burden, Executive Director Chambers of Commerce talks about the challenges in rebounding from the pandemic.

How has the pandemic affected small business and what are they challenged with as they re-open?Kim for contest
 
There has been disruption to the local economy in varying degrees and business sectors. From what I am hearing and observing in the community, the challenges are consistent; availability of staff, increased regulations and protocols, rebuilding a customer/client base after closures, ensuring staff and customers are safe and comfortable in their environment. 
 
How has your experience in the community prepared you to deal with crisis?
 
I’ll start out by saying, I don’t believe anything could have prepared us for the ongoing crisis we face. However, dealing with crisis in general, I have been very fortunate over the years to have developed a network of local leaders, business influencers and stakeholders in our community and this has often facilitated working together on projects and initiatives. During the crisis, those relationships allowed me to make connections and continue to provide me the opportunity to support local business.  
 
How have the Chambers responded?
 
I’m very proud of the team at the Chamber, who continue to adapt to changes everyday, and who have each used their talents and expertise in responding to the crisis. 
Keeping the community informed was critical and from the beginning, both Parksville and Qualicum Chambers focused on communicating with businesses and the community to provide up to date information from a variety of sources. Combining the resources of both Chambers has been a benefit to the region and we will continue to work together to support the business community. 
                                      
We have developed a program and assembled a set of tools to assist businesses with re-opening and re-establishing. We are now leading the charge with a Support Local campaign partnering with local leaders to encourage the community to Think Local First.
 
 
Any great stories to share? 
 
Our community is remarkably resilient, and I hear great stories everyday about how we are supporting each other. That’s the most important thing to me.  
 
In terms of the Chambers operation, we had to get creative and find very different ways to host some of our popular events. We decided to present a virtual presentation of the Canada Day celebrations, which ended up being a great production. Our Business Achievement Awards had been scheduled for March 18, the day after we had to close. When we returned May 28, we immediately started planning a virtual awards ceremony.   We were able to provide a slightly different experience for finalists and award recipients and yet celebrate our incredible business community. We have also been able to downsize the Summer by the Sea Street Market to allow our vendors the opportunity to sell their goods and another chance for shoppers to Support Local.  
 
 
Looking ahead as we rebound – what do you think will be important for business owners to keep in mind?
 
At this point, I think it’s important that business owners consider and prepare for another interruption. This may not necessarily include a closure, particularly if they are able to pivot and consider changes to their service, delivery, and sales methods to a digital online format. Customers who feel comfortable going out and shopping will continue to do so but there is a large group of individuals who struggle with their comfort levels and will need to have a different service and product delivery system in place, one that takes customer comfort levels into consideration. 

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