2020 was a year unlike any other. It goes without saying that the global pandemic shaped the world, our country, our province and our city in ways that we could never have predicted. This uncertainty has thrust upon the Kamloops business community and Venture Kamloops in mid-March. On the 18th of that month, the Board of Directors okayed the move of all staff to start working from home. It was on that date that the true value of our organization and the services we provide to the businesses and entrepreneurs in our city were put to the test. And, quite frankly, the results have been remarkable.
The first, and perhaps most overwhelming, aspect of the effects of the pandemic on business was the onslaught of information that was disseminated by all levels of government, business organizations and service providers. This was particularly impactful during the early days of the pandemic. In response, Venture Kamloops staff undertook the daunting task of understanding, interpreting and explaining the ever-changing information as quickly and as accurately as possible to as many Kamloops businesses as possible. In addition to distilling and posting this to our electronic channels, staff reached out directly to more than 400 businesses to ensure that those business owners were aware of the programs and initiatives that were available to them.
This began a trend of outreach that continues today and is unprecedented in the history of the organization. Staff reviewed every program we offer and adapted each one to accommodate circumstances imposed by the pandemic. We developed a streamlined version of VK Venture Advisors that went from being offered 9 times a year to twice a week. We opened our Start Here portal to include channels for businesses with specific pandemic-related issues. And through all this, staff hit the phones (and the Zoom!) to continue to touch base and offer support to as many Kamloops businesses as possible. The results of these efforts are documented. In 2020, Venture Kamloops counted 710 new clients. That’s an interaction rate of better than 1 of every 9 Kamloops businesses. The most in any previous year was in 2019, when the organization counted 295.
But the story of the year that was is not these numbers. The story is the perseverance of Kamloops entrepreneurs. Throughout the toughest of times, they were the driving force behind a local economy that refused to yield to the unimaginable pressures brought on by the pandemic. The city saw record numbers of new business licenses issued. The total number of active licenses grew by more than 200. Hundreds of businesses adapted their models, or pivoted to something entirely new. Of course, it wasn’t possible for every business to fend off the disastrous effects of the pandemic. Businesses made the painful decision to close and it took a toll on the owners and staff. We at Venture Kamloops felt the weight of these business and personal losses. It made us even more determined to do whatever we can to help businesses through the continuing health crisis.
That determination was shared by our partner organizations in Kamloops. This group of business support organizations came together early in the pandemic and formed #ykastrong, which combined the efforts of the group to focus on local support for local businesses. This effort has been recognized as a leading example of the positive work done during the toughest of times. Other initiatives have come to life as a result of discussions originated in this group that continue as I write this.
As we breathlessly look back at 2020, it is important to remember that the pandemic does not adhere to a calendar and the struggles of local business continue. We at Venture Kamloops are determined to spare no effort to make every Kamloops business successful. In 2021, we hope for an end to the pandemic, but we rely on Kamloops business to emerge stronger.
- Jim Anderson, Executive Director
TRU’s new $32 million Industrial Training and Technology Centre (ITTC) officially opened for learning.