The Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce has announced it’s cancelling the 2020 trade show that was to be held on April 17 and 18 in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The chamber had a good idea when the Alberta government announced on March 12 that gatherings of over 250 people were being banned, but the official decision to cancel the trade show was made on March 20, according to Heather Bendera, executive manager for the chamber.
There had been about 100 vendors confirmed, between the market square and the main area. There was still room for a couple more, and vendors tend to register up to the last minute.
The annual trade show is the second-largest source of income for the chamber next to membership fees.
“It’s going to be a huge disadvantage to the chamber of commerce,” said Bendera.
Some preliminary discussions have been held about possibly holding some type of chamber event in the fall or late summer, but planning in earnest will have to wait until more is known.
In the meantime, Bendera says she is working on establishing a virtual trade show but isn’t sure how long it may take before it’s ready to launch.
It would feature the vendors that had registered with their business names, contact information and a blurb about their business.
The page keeps an updated list of chamber businesses that have been affected, either by closure or reduced hours, and which are still open, as well as businesses that are offering additional services such as delivery.
The chamber is doing its best to keep up with this list, as things are changing rapidly.
There is also a list of resources for businesses and individuals, such as government programs.
Bendera says unfortunately at this time, most of the help for businesses is in the form of loans, which still need to be paid back eventually.
“Their bottom line is still affected.”
Bendera says the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on businesses is “uncertain, unprecedented and scary,” and that businesses are in for an extremely difficult time.
No one was prepared for a situation like this, and the negative affects will be felt, she says.
“This is the worst economic crisis any of these businesses have faced.”
Bendera adds that the Ponoka chamber, as well as the Alberta Chamber of Commerce and Canada Chamber of Commerce are all working overtime to advocate for businesses and plan for their recovery, and help them get through this.
“This will end. We’re not sure when, but it will end,” said Bendera, adding if the community supports each other, we will all “come out of this.”
The chamber has been encouraging businesses to keep a record of any extra expenses and losses incurred due to the pandemic. Some government assistance for businesses affected by COVID-19 has been announced.
What you can do
In order to help support local businesses during this time, the chamber encourages those who can afford to, to purchase gift cards from local businesses to use at a later date, or if they’re at home, to shop online or take the time to leave positive online reviews for local businesses.
Beyond that? Bendera says to “wash your hands.”
The Ponoka chamber held a phone conference in lieu of the morning meeting it had planned for March 17.
In the call, Dennis Jones, Ponoka County regional fire chief and director of emergency management, spoke about business continuity.
Jones presented on how businesses can create a continuity plan for any disaster, as well as the latest information on the coronavirus that was available at the time.
Emergency management partnership
The semi-annual Regional Emergency Management Partnership meet was held on March 27 as a conference call. The Ponoka and Rimbey chambers were invited to take part.