The Fernie Chamber of Commerce statement addresses the economic impacts currently facing the local business community and what this crisis may look like over the coming months.

What We Know Today
– Everyone should be continuing to practice common sense preventative measures like regularly washing your hands, covering your face when coughing, social distancing, and staying home when sick.
– Those that have weaker immune systems (including the elderly) should be especially careful and consider self-isolating.
Many businesses and facilities in Fernie are now closed or have reduced service levels. The Fernie Chamber and Tourism Fernie are actively collaborating to bring our community the latest information. Continue to check this resource for the latest on business closures and what innovative things local businesses are doing to serve their customers during this period of self-isolating: Tourism Fernie self-isolating (to provide an update from your business please email jesse@ferniechamber.com)
– Gatherings or events of more than 50 people should be cancelled or postponed. Use of technology to hold meetings remotely or virtually is strongly encouraged.
– Anyone returning from abroad should self-isolate for 14 days.
– Phone numbers have been setup in BC for information regarding COVID-19:
Dial 811 for medical information (including if you believe you are showing symptoms of COVID-19)
Dial 1-888-COVID19 for non-medical related inquiries including travel advisories and relief tools available for businesses/workers
– The Bank of Canada has asked retailers and businesses to keep accepting cash amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They have warned that refusing cash could put an undue burden on people that depend on cash as a means of payment.
– Further to Monday’s announcement by the federal government regarding the closure of Canada’s border to all non-Canadians, the US/Canada border will be closed for non-essential travel. The Prime Minister indicated today that the US/Canada border closure will come into effect tomorrow night (Friday 20 March).
– The federal and provincial governments are taking the economic impact of the situation seriously, freeing up cash and resources for relief efforts for businesses, workers and citizens impacted. We have updated what we know so far below.
– The Fernie Visitor Information Centre remains open from 9am to 5pm and is a valuable resource for visitors, residents and businesses. The facility is taking all precautions and is prepared to move to a virtual contingency model where information assistance will still be available via phone, email and social media in the event we have to close the physical location.

BC Chamber Survey
The BC Chamber of Commerce launched a survey using their MindReader platform regarding the financial impacts of COVID-19 last Friday with the survey closing yesterday. There were almost 8,000 responses from businesses across BC including our region. The highlights from the results of the survey (which has been shared with the provincial and federal governments) are:
– 90% of businesses are “currently being impacted by COVID-19”
– Of those impacted, 83% are seeing a “drop in revenue, business, or deal flow”
– 91% anticipate a further “decrease in revenue in the near-term” [sic]
– 73% of businesses expect their revenues will drop by 50% or more (with nearly a quarter saying revenues will drop by 100%)
– Half of the respondents say they will be “temporarily shutting down” their offices.
– 64% of respondents expect to reduce their staff by over half (with a quarter saying they will be reducing their staff by 100%)

What the Next Few Months Could Look Like
The growing consensus among experts is that the global economy is facing the biggest financial crisis of our lifetimes – much more significant than the financial crash of 2008. What we are also all now realizing is this won’t impact us for weeks; it will be months.

Jikke from Tourism Fernie and myself sat in on a webinar yesterday delivered by Roger Brooks from the Destination Development Association on the topic Dealing With the Coronavirus. During the presentation he suggested that based on the best science we have now, daily business-as-usual operations for all businesses may not be possible for at least 90 days – taking us to mid-June.

So we should be prepared as a business community that things may not be spooled-up and returned to business as usual until Canada Day, realistically. That is sobering to hear but we should be prepared for this worst case scenario and act accordingly to protect our businesses, staff, customers and vendors.

Fernie Chamber and Visitor Information Centre Update
The Fernie Chamber of Commerce continues to operate on behalf of the local business community. Both myself and Kalina (Membership Services Coordinator) are working remotely and are available by email. All Chamber events for March and April are postponed until further notice – including our AGM originally scheduled for April 15.

As of right now, the Fernie Visitor Information Centre remains open from 9am to 5pm. This Saturday will be the last Saturday we will be open for the foreseeable future, we will then move to Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. We are taking all precautions at the Visitor Centre and are evaluating staying open on a daily basis. Some of the factors weighing into our decision process include the spike in call volume we have experienced with questions from visitors, residents and businesses. We are also the local depot for Purolator shipping, and we have noticed a pronounced spike in the delivery of packages as self-isolation causes more online shopping. We are also aware of at least several local residents who get their medicine sent through Purolator and we want to keep that service open as long as is reasonable.

We are prepared to move to a virtual contingency model where information assistance will still be available via phone, email and social media in the event we have to close the physical location.

Finally on a personal note, while we are focusing on our local economy and the financial impacts of this situation today, by no means do I intend to minimize the very real human element during this rapidly evolving pandemic response. This is a frightening and unprecedented time for all of us. In the past 48 hours, an ever-growing number of Fernie residents (both permanent and temporary) have lost their jobs just like that. Business owners and managers have made heartbreaking decisions regarding staffing and even closing their businesses down entirely without being sure as to when, or if, they will re-open. Working parents are dealing with the reality that kids will be out of school until September. Many of us are scrambling to figure out how we are going to pay our rent, our mortgage, our leases, our vendors, our bills. This is a stressful time.

I encourage all of you as leaders in our community to be strong, but also compassionate and empathetic during this time. People are vulnerable and hurting. Let’s make sure we look out for each other as friends, as neighbors, as a community.

Support local businesses wherever you can for those that remain open. That messaging is still important.

I am humbled every day to work with a business community filled with such passionate and innovative people. Our business community punches way beyond its weight for a town of our size, and we will rebound together. Thank you for your leadership and together we will get through this.

All the best,

Brad Parsell – Executive Director
brad@ferniechamber.com
250 423 6868

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