Williams Lake’s economic development officer and other organizations are collaborating to offer support to local businesses navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beth Veenkamp said she has been meeting by teleconference weekly with Downtown Williams Lake, Community Futures, the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce, WorkBC, an economic development officer from the Cariboo Regional District and a provincial representative who has an economic development position as well.
“We are trying to make sure we are making good referrals,” she said, noting they are directing people to Downtown Williams Lake for marketing and Community Futures of the Cariboo Chilcotin for financial advice as examples.
Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce has been reaching out to its rural members, she added.
Lots of people are asking ‘what businesses are open?’ Veenkamp said.
“We are recommending that customers call the businesses before they go there, but we don’t want to put out a big list of everything that is open because we don’t want to be encouraging people to go out and go shopping. It’s a fine line we are dancing.”
Other communities across B.C. are surveying businesses, but Veenkamp said collectively the group decided not to do so.
“I think due to the 2017 wildfires we have some experience with this and I feel like we’ve committed to not add more noise because there is so much information out there. The last thing we want to do right now is survey businesses.”
A big gap they have identified is access to computers.
“If you are trying to apply for any benefits there is nowhere to get computer access. WorkBC is closed, the library is closed, so we are trying to figure out how we can come up with a solution. For every question there is, it takes you down this big rabbit hole.”
Veenkamp said other communities will have the same problem so the local group is asking for a bigger solution from the provincial government.
Downtown Williams Lake had to cancel its spring festival due to the pandemic and has ‘pivoted’ to offer virtual cooking classes, she added.
“We are all working together to support each other. I don’t want people to be duplicating work and I don’t want people to be doing busy work and making lists for the sake of making lists. We also know that when we are allowed back, that’s when the real work happens. Whenever that is.”
Beth Veenkamp said on the City’s website there is a section for business services inquiries and lots of information available at https://www.williamslake.ca/DocumentCenter/View/3037/COVID-19-Business-Resources.
“I even turned my Christmas lights back on a few weeks ago,” she added.