OLDS — A survey of local businesses by the Town of Olds contained a surprising statistic: 66 per cent of the respondents to a town survey on COVID-19 said the pandemic had only a slight impact or even an actual improvement to their bottom line.
Eight per cent stated their bottom line was completely impacted and 28 per cent said it had a moderate impact.
Deputy director of emergency management Jennifer Lutz presented those numbers and others from the survey during town council’s May 10 meeting.
The survey was undertaken to obtain feedback from businesses on how best to help them cope with COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
It was undertaken the last week of April, emailed to all establishments with business licences and advertised via social media, radio and local newspapers.
Nearly 100 responses were received. Plans call for the results to be posted on the town’s website.
“We had a very diverse cross-section of uptake,” Lutz said. “The survey indicates that the pandemic really had varying degrees of financial impact to businesses.
"It was nice to see some encouraging numbers there, although if you’re in the eight per cent, we recognize that’s tough.”
Lutz said a strong majority of respondents indicated that their immediate business needs had been addressed.
However, she said “supply chain issues and continuing changes to provincial health guidelines were among some of their biggest challenges.”
Programs that put dollars directly into the hands of businesses were found to be the most popular ways of helping local businesses cope with pandemic restrictions.
Waiving the annual resident business licence fee and providing reopening grants were also very popular.
“We did ask – and this is a tough question – but we asked for experiences within the community that provided some inspiration and hope,” Lutz said.
“The general stream seen throughout the responses (was that) most people had been respectful with COVID-19 protocols. They enjoyed seeing positive messaging and a feeling of community support as well as businesses band together to support local.”
Many businesses coped with the restrictions by increasing their use of online marketing as well as getting the word out via social media. Several also utilized curbside pickup service.
"As anticipated, there was a lot of frustration in these surveys as well, which is the other side that we hear,” she said.
Administrative staff now plan to examine the results of the survey more closely and in the future, provide council with some recommendations stemming from it.
Mayor Michael Muzychka thanked Lutz for providing her analysis of the survey results.
“Just as a comment from myself, it was incredibly heartwarming to see how many people went out and supported our restaurants with the implementation of the outside patios,” Muzychka said.
“And you know, you drive down that road when it was snowing and –5 out there and there were dozens of people on those patios, so it’s good to see hearty Albertans and the rest in Olds support our local businesses the way they have, so thank you very much for that.”