Of 142 Vernon businesses surveyed, 82 per cent said they were affected by COVID-19 but 11 per cent said business picked up during the pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star file)

COVID-19 boosts business for 11 per cent in Vernon

82 per cent of survey respondents said they were impacted by pandemic, but not all bad

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected 82 per cent of businesses in Vernon, but 11 per cent of those surveyed said the global crisis has been beneficial for business.

While 50 per cent of businesses said COVID-19 had a “significantly negative impact,” 11 per cent said it had a “low” to “significant positive impact.”

Four per cent of businesses had to hire extra staff to meet demand.

Of the 142-business cross-section — selected at random of the more than 2,000 businesses within the City of Vernon’s directory — wholesale businesses, grocery stores, fast food delivery services, medical supply stores and computer services were among those who said the novel coronavirus has had a positive impact on their bottom line between May 12 and June 9.

These were the businesses that provide specialized services and products that were in high demand amid the pandemic.

More than half of the surveyed businesses said they have applied to at least one of the federal and provincial recovery programs, but respondents said more support was required.

Commercial property tax deferrals, assistance with Personal Protective Equipment supplies and continued free parking zones downtown were suggested by respondents of the Vision North Okanagan (VNO) survey.

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VNO is a collaboration between organizations supporting economic development activities across the region, including Okanagan College, Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures North Okanagan, Regional District of North Okanagan, Downtown Vernon Association, City of Vernon and the provincial government, among other partners.

Businesses were asked 19 questions about the effects COVID-19 had on business, employment and accessibility to support programs.

The survey results will help guide businesses in the North Okanagan in their recovery while identifying immediate measures that could be implemented at a local level to aid in recovery.

Of those surveyed, 28 per cent of businesses closed their doors to the public during the pandemic — four per cent of which will remain closed permanently.

Eleven per cent said they were unsure if they would be able to operate post-COVID.

Survey results showed nearly 32 per cent of Vernon’s workforce was laid off.

Prior to the pandemic, the total number of employees for those surveyed was 2,333, or 16.4 employees per business. That now sits at 1,586, or 11 people per business.

Sales and revenue dropped for more than three-quarters of businesses surveyed, while 20 per cent noted a 100 per cent reduction.

Other negative effects of the health crisis were cash reserve drops, layoffs, reduction in the level of service and working remotely.

The results of the survey were presented to Vernon city councillors during the June 22 meeting.

The city’s economic development and tourism manager Kevin Poole said the findings of the VNO survey will help establish a plan of action to bolster a quick recovery.

Mayor Victor Cumming gave thanks to VNO for spearheading the survey and “moving straight away.”

“We’re seeing actions already,” he said. “A lot of other communities are struggling to move forward.”

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