by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Two members of North Grenville’s Chamber of Commerce, Megan McDonald and Terri-Lyn McEvoy, are highlighting the important work the Chamber does to support local businesses. Some of the Chamber’s goals include providing advocacy, networking, and visibility opportunities for local businesses, as well as providing accurate and up-to-date information about what is happening in the community. Networking opportunities have been fewer and far between during the pandemic, but the Chamber has acted as a “vehicle of information” for businesses, according to Terri-Lyn. Changes in the Chamber and in the way local businesses run have not been static since the pandemic began. Terri-Lyn pointed out that, when COVID-19 first hit, there were a lot of video chats and webinars taking place, but people have become “Zoomed out”, and so the situation has shifted back to touching base personally with businesses.
When asked how local businesses are feeling the impact of COVID-19 nearly two years since pandemic restrictions began, Terri-Lyn pointed out that some business owners are just plain tired. They are increasingly unable to take days off and to have a proper personal life, because of staffing and financial constraints. Some businesses, however, have used the pandemic as an opportunity to make positive changes.
“Successfully, a lot of businesses did shift to an online space,” Megan said. Both women talked about how one of the challenges many businesses have faced is confusion about the changing pandemic mandates. The Chamber has worked with both the Ministry of Health and other business organizations to ensure they deliver accurate and up-to-date information. They have provided guidance and direction for businesses to help ensure that the business community felt confident and knowledgeable about the changes and funding opportunities available.
Business owners have been worried about the health unit showing up and faulting them for violations they did not even know they were making. The Chamber has been able to make the information more understandable for business owners. Some business owners are holding out hope that the pandemic will switch to endemic status soon, though others are disheartened that, so often, progress is made and then lost.
Megan pointed out that this is a difficult subject for many businesses. Some business owners will likely keep some of the changes brought about by the pandemic, such as virtual meetings for efficiency, paid sick leave, and a greater recognition of when a staff member is simply too ill to come to work. On the positive side, the Chamber has worked hard to promote the #iLoveNG campaign, using money obtained from a grant. #iLoveNG has been a way for locals to express why they love North Grenville, and to show their support for shopping locally, and has also been used to show “behind the scenes” aspects of many businesses.
The grant has allowed the Chamber to work with local creatives and other supporters of local business. Other initiatives have also supported businesses, such as rapid test kit training and distribution throughout North Grenville. This pandemic has certainly shown that the Chamber of Commerce – and local businesses – have the strength to handle just about anything.