The Estevan Chamber of Commerce has released the results of its annual business survey.
The chamber posed several questions to its members through an online survey, and about 60 of the 304 members, or a little less than 20 per cent, responded. Executive director Jackie Wall said it’s the highest response rate they’ve ever had.
The first question was on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the businesses. Responses were very different, said Wall.
Just over 13 per cent of respondents said there was minimal impact, but more than 18 per cent said they had a revenue decrease of at least 71 per cent.
“The largest revenue decrease range was 10 to 30 per cent, and that was just about 37 per cent of businesses,” said Wall.
That was to be expected, she said. Some businesses have been able to navigate through this by adapting and changing their services. But the chamber also has member businesses who had to completely shut down.
“It was kind of interesting to see the range throughout,” said Wall.
The next question was on reasons for being a chamber member. The biggest reason is to support the health of the local economy, which follows a trend from previous years.
“We have a role in advocacy, we have a role in networking, we have a role in education, we have a role in leadership, and that is one of the underlying themes that we always see in that a lot of our members are there to support the health of the local economy,” she said.
Networking opportunities also factored into decisions to be a member.
The chamber also wanted to know whether members thought events add value to their individual businesses, and if events add value to the business community as a whole. Wall noted there were differences in the results, which she found surprising.
“They did see a big value to the business community as a whole.”
Coffee talks and political forums were popular; the support for the latter surprised the chamber. In the case of political forums, there could be two this year, with both provincial and civic elections scheduled for the fall.
The Estevan Farmers’ Appreciation Evening, the chamber’s business summit and the Estevan Business Excellence Awards were also popular attractions.
“Everything that we put on as an event that we’re doing, we are looking at continuing in some form, because it was quite an equal support across the board,” said Wall.
A question on workshops showed that business people wanted to hear about business resiliency, social media use, increasing online presence, small business planning and business finance.
“We’re in a situation where we also have other community partners that the chamber works with, namely Community Futures Sunrise, the economic development office and the new business incubator that just opened up,” said Wall.
Also new on the survey was a question on different services available in the city. Sports finished first, followed by housing, recreational activities, arts and culture, and parks to round out the top five.
The survey ended with a question on what people think of the role of the chamber in the business community. People suggested the role should be advocating, facilitating business growth, building business confidence, fostering economic growth, enhancing networks and economic growth, and keeping entrepreneurs informed.
“We take this information and we basically take a look at how we’re going to move the chamber forward,” said Wall.
These are questions they have been asking when calling members and hosting events like Coffee Talk.
Property taxes are an issue that businesses in Estevan are always facing, Wall said. Now that the RM of Estevan has reduced its portion of commercial property taxes, other businesses are calling the chamber to find out how they will push for lower property taxes in the city.
Results of the survey were revealed during the Chamber Check-In, a virtual gathering on June 17 patterned after their Coffee Talk sessions.
The day before the check-in, the chamber did an operational review to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and non-profit organizations.
“We’re looking at what we need to do as a chamber moving forward, for the chamber organization, but also how we’re going to support the members, and I think the overall theme would be business recovery and resiliency,” said Wall.