As Edmonton heads into Small Business Week, there is increased hope that recent COVID-19 initiatives are providing a needed boost to both consumer and company confidence levels, says Jeffrey Sundquist, president and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.
"Six weeks ago, I would have said there was cautious optimism, but right now — (because) hospitalization rates are declining, vaccination rates are climbing, and we have the restrictions exemption program in place — there is again optimism," Sundquist told Taproot.
The Edmonton Oilers season opener generated a welcome buzz of downtown excitement, which is a positive sign for an area that produces 20% of the city's revenues. "People are excited to get back together to congregate."
Encouraging employment numbers are also fuelling hopes for Edmonton's economic rebound, although Sundquist noted that labour shortages in the hospitality sector and supply chain disruptions are still major concerns for local businesses.
The chamber, which has 1,750 member businesses employing over 100,000 people, is marking Small Business Week with several in-person events, including a talk from ATB Financial's chief economist Todd Hirsch, and a chance to hear the success story of SYC Brewing Co. as part of its Meet the Makers series. Online events will include sessions on branding, cloud computing, and pandemic recovery strategies.
Sundquist said the week is also an opportunity to reinforce the importance of shopping local to support the small business sector that makes up more than 90% of Edmonton companies. That's also a key message for the organization's Better When It's YEG campaign.
"What the pandemic did is magnify the importance of supporting local, and created a sense of connection to the fabric of the business community," said Sundquist, who took over as the chamber's chief executive in April.
While the organization is also looking forward to hosting more in-person events, like its annual January gala, Sundquist said the pandemic has proven the power of online events in keeping the business community connected.
Small Business Week, which runs from Oct. 18 to 22, was launched 42 years ago by the Business Development Bank of Canada as an annual celebration of entrepreneurship. Servus Credit Union is the presenting sponsor of this year's Edmonton events.