By Scott Schmidt
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Small Business Week is Oct. 14-21 this year, and the Bow Island/Burdett Chamber of Commerce is going to take the opportunity to recognize all those who make up the local economy.
“A few years ago we tried having different training sessions and such for the businesses throughout the week, and it just didn’t work,” said Bernice DeLeenheer, president of the Bow Island/Burdett Chamber of Commerce. “We weren’t getting much participation.
“So last year we changed it up and just went to our wine and cheese event.”
This year’s event takes place Friday, Oct. 19 at the Legion in Bow Island.
“This year we are just doing a celebration of our businesses, so we are having some of our past business-of-the-year recipients come in to do a 10- to 15-minute spiel on the successes and challenges of running a business in a small community.”
The evening will of course also include winners of business awards in several categories, including Business of the Year, Most Innovative New Business, Long Service and Spirit of Bow Island, which is an award for businesses that give back to the community, whether that be through donations, staff volunteering or anything else.
“We have a committee that sits down and goes through our member list,” DeLeenheer said. “That committee is community business owners that are not Chamber members and part of the executive, so we have input from outside community business members.”
A few years after a province-wide economic downtown hit early in 2015, DeLeenheer says the region is showing signs of improvement.
“We have new businesses opening up in town, so that’s kind of nice,” she said. “There’s always opportunities in Bow Island — Ag opportunities, retail opportunities — lots of opportunity out here.”
The closure of the Spitz plant left some uncertainty for many in the town, but there have been rumblings along the grapevine regarding the facility, as well as the Whitla Wind Farm, which when finished will provide several employment opportunities.
“We’re seeing a little bit of growth,” DeLeenheer said. “There are some rumours that maybe the Spitz plant is going to be sold, so we’re hoping that helps with keeping the employees in town.
“And if the employees are in town, they’re going to be shopping and it’s going to help everyone. We’re definitely seeing some business movement in our area for sure.”
Oct. 1 also saw the province’s minimum wage raised to $15 per hour, which will affect labour costs for local businesses but also increase spending power of many residents. The Chamber is taking a wait-and-see approach instead of making assumptions to the overall effect on the economy.
“The hike in minimum wage I’m sure will have some type of impact, but it’s a little bit too early to know what that full impact is going to be,” DeLeenheer said.
The Chamber’s goal in the meantime is to continue to promote local business and local shopping, working to attract highway travellers and patrons from outlying communities. With two grocery stores, a drug store, a very popular bakery and much more, DeLeenheer says there are plenty reasons to visit Bow Island.
“We try to promote shopping in Bow Island as much as we can, because if you don’t shop here, eventually you might not be able to shop here.”