Pandemic brings out resourcefulness of Vernon business community

Chamber: hope will prevail

The past 12 months comprised "a year like no other," says the president of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.

"COVID-19 impacted all of us professionally and personally," says Krystin Kempton says in a new year message to members.

"But while there were significant challenges, the pandemic also highlighted the strengths of the North Okanagan, including the quality of businesses and recreation opportunities at our fingertips, the kindness of our neighbours, the courage of frontline workers and the generosity of organizations like Okanagan Spirits, which produced and donated hand sanitizer when there was a shortage. Businesses and non-profits demonstrated their creativity and flexibility to continue their services, while the community showed increased support for local commerce."

Kempton says the chamber team adapted quickly to ensure business needs were being addressed, "particularly as the information around government initiatives and health protocols evolved almost daily."

The chamber hosted webinars and town halls on economic recovery and promoted local shopping through its Vote Vernon campaign.

"Throughout the year, we advocated for our members’ survival and recovery through COVID-19 ... (and) reached out to government entities to encourage the postponement of collecting property taxes so businesses had the opportunity to bounce back from the initial lockdown, request reimbursement for personal protective equipment expenses incurred by businesses, extend the temporary layoff time limit, and to request the federal government purchase sanitizer from Canadian producers rather than offshore sources."

Kempton said the chamber continues to advocate for fair tax of craft distilleries, and press for the provincial purchase of the Chelsea Estate on Okanagan Lake, for addition to Ellison Provincial Park.

Staff also left gift cards for local shops on the windshields of vehicles with out of province licence plates "to welcome them to (safely!) explore our town."

The chamber ended 2020 with 106 new members for a total of 604.

"As we move through 2021, we know that the pandemic will continue to influence everything we do as a business, non-profit or a community. But hope will prevail as we take this journey together," said Kempton.

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