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Barrhead Chamber working hard to assist members during pandemic

Executive Dave Sawatzky warns that Alberta may see similar restrictions as Ontario in coming weeks
The Barrhead and District Chamber of Commerce is working to help local businesses adjust to the new reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and looking ahead to the transition to "the new normal" in the coming weeks.

BARRHEAD-With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the local business community hard, the Barrhead and District Chamber of Commerce has been working over the past three weeks to help its members manage the information overload and line up initiatives that will help businesses in the coming weeks.

That’s according to Chamber executive Dave Sawatzky, who the Town & Country Today reached out to on April 8 regarding the impact of the pandemic on local businesses.

Sawatzky acknowledged that this has been a difficult time for all of the Chamber’s members and their staff, as many businesses have been forced to either close, reduce hours or lay off staff.

“There has never been a time that our business community, our staff and their families needs the support of our entire community more,” said Sawatzky.

“We have so many people who are going out each day to work, knowing the risks, to make sure our community is taken care of. These people are not only our front-line health care workers, hospital staff and first responders, but all the other people in retail, supply chains and the service industry that are keeping our community going.”

That includes Sanderman’s Home Hardware, where Sawatzky is the owner/manager. He said they have been forced to reduce their hours, which in turn impacts the part-time staff.

On the bright side, Sawatzky noted many businesses have found new and creative ways to service the community when their doors are locked, including more promotions through social media, a greater emphasis on online ordering, curbside delivery and pick-up.

“It is very enjoyable to watch our members working so hard and seeing their creativity flow as they market and promote their business,” said Sawatzky.

That includes the hardware, which offers curbside pick-up and free delivery; Sawatzky noted they have seen e-commerce orders triple in the past few weeks.

Regarding the Chamber’s activities, Sawatzky pointed out how they have spent the past three weeks working with the Town of Barrhead, the County of Barrhead, Community Futures Yellowhead East and Alberta Labour.

One of the first initiatives they worked on was to help get a better handle on the massive amounts of information coming from the provincial and federal governments by creating an infographic containing links to various websites that can aid businesses, which has been posted to the Chamber’s Facebook page, their website and the town and county’s web pages.

Sawatzky said they have been working on a number of other initiatives to help members gain access to available programs that will assist them with business planning, marketing, social media and cashflow analysis.

“Many smaller member businesses may not know where to turn and we are hoping that they reach out to us, or our partners, so that we can provide them the contacts to help them out,” he said.

“There is a lot of very helpful information out there and we want to make sure our businesses have access to as much as possible to help them through this pandemic.”

Sawatzky noted the province of Ontario recently tightened up regulations around essential businesses, restricting many businesses to taking orders and providing delivery or curbside pick-up only.

While this is due to the fact that Ontario has been hardest hit by COVID-19, Sawatzky warned that similar measures may be coming to Alberta, and the Chamber must work to help prepare its members for when that occurs.

Kevin Berger,

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He noted the Chamber is also looking four to eight weeks down the road, when the spread of COVID-19 may be slowing down.

“While we do not know when this will be over … we will need to put in place plans to help our businesses transition to the new normal, whatever that looks like,” he said.