Outgoing Niverville Chamber president Amanda Wiens.Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

If anything can be said of Niverville’s businesses over the last few years, it’s that they’re a resilient bunch.

Bearing testimony to that is the lack of Closed signs following two years of pandemic restrictions. While the community did, unfortunately, lose a couple of good ones, the general growth trend once again demonstrates a steep upward trajectory. This includes some long-term businesses currently undertaking major expansions.

Not all communities will boast the same optimistic outcome. According to Statistics Canada, business insolvencies across the country rose by 37 percent in late 2021. At the same time, one-third of businesses reported concern for their survival in the absence of government support, especially as input costs began to spike.

Without question, the local Chamber has played a role in helping Niverville business owners navigate those tough times.

Amanda Wiens, outgoing Niverville Chamber president, is keen to reflect back on some of the initiatives her board undertook during the tumultuous COVID years.

In 2020, just as it became clear that the pandemic was here for the long haul, the Niverville Chamber board decided to create their own relief program, exclusive to their local members.

“Businesses were asked to send in a short paragraph of how COVID [was impacting] their business,” Wiens says. “In our first round, we had four members apply and all were approved to receive $500 each. In our second round, we distributed $2,500 in additional COVID relief between all businesses that applied.”

Around the same time, the board set to work applying for grants. In the end, they received $28,500 in funding which helped finance a number of campaigns intended to encourage residents to shop locally.

Shoppers showing proof of purchase at one of Niverville’s many businesses were entered into a draw for a gift card that was redeemable at other local businesses.

“These were done at the height of restrictions, over Christmas 2020, and the following first quarter of 2021,” says Wiens. “The campaigns were targeted at increasing community support of their local businesses at a time when it was easier to just shop online.”

A few months later, the Chamber board ran a new campaign, called Make a Day of It. A one-minute promotional video was developed for the new tourism website, created by the Chamber. This campaign was targeted at attracting shoppers from the communities around Niverville.

As COVID infections spiked throughout the southeast in 2021, the provincial government imposed a 50 percent capacity restriction on all retail in the Southern Health-Sante Sud region.

Since Niverville had demonstrated a vaccination rate far higher than other communities in the southeast, the Chamber board, along with Mayor Myron Dyck, became vocal advocates for local businesses.

“Mayor Myron Dyck started doing interviews to garner attention and was able to get Dr. Roussin’s phone number to speak to him about the fairness of the mandates and the impacts they would have on our business community,” Wiens says. “The Niverville Chamber was happy to take on a supportive role in this and also called Dr. Roussin to relay a message of support for having the mandates reviewed.”

The Chamber drafted their own letter to Roussin, chief provincial health officer, delivered and submitted it via the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce. As a result, mandates were lifted for the Town of Niverville within two weeks of their imposition.

In September 2022, the Niverville Chamber hosted Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce. He spent an entire day touring Niverville businesses, listening as owners and managers recounted their various struggles, successes, and visions for the future.

In October, the Chamber partnered with The Citizen to host a candidate’s forum in advance of the municipal election, providing an opportunity for candidates to speak on topics of local importance. Wiens served as a co-moderator.

Around the same time, the Chamber board worked with Niverville’s council to find solutions for lost recycling options in the wake of Eastman Recycling Services closing down. After months of negotiation, a deal was struck with Bristal Hauling for a special rate, subsidized by the town, to make recycling options affordable once again.

In March of this year, the Chamber board launched their educational breakfast series, connecting members with professionals from a variety of specialties relevant to entrepreneurs.

And in April, the first-ever AGM, Awards, and Business Growth dinner was held at Whitetail Meadow.

“It was a fantastic night,” says Wiens. “But seeing the launch of the new events schedule that our board has been working very hard on for the past year [has been a highlight for me]. This new event schedule is opening up opportunities for us to elevate the services we can provide our members and create more opportunities for our business community to get involved with us.”

By Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 25, 2023 at 14:52

This item reprinted with permission from   The Citizen   Niverville, Manitoba

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