If you’re looking for a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it solidified our great need for local connections, and it magnified the importance of supporting local businesses and connecting with the community.
As businesses continue to safely reopen and move forward, the Burnaby Board of Trade (BBOT) works to provide a lifeline of communication and help local businesses navigate a path to recovery that will ultimately generate business activity.
"During the most challenging times of the pandemic, we called or emailed every member to check in and see what supports we could provide," says Paul Holden, president and CEO of BBOT. "Our members felt like we were in their corner. Last year was the best year we’ve had in retaining members and membership renewal; this year is even stronger."
The foundation of the board of trade and chamber of commerce movement 200 years ago was a recognition that businesses there are far stronger and more likely to succeed when they collaborate and support each other, rather than working on their own.
"This is still true today," says Holden. "I get calls daily from businesses looking to connect with other members for a variety of reasons: to collaborate with each other, support one another, and do business together."
Holden goes on to explain that during the initial phase of the pandemic, it was important for consumers as well as businesses to know how they could get in touch with businesses that were still able to operate, so "we had an 'open for business' directory,” Holden explains, which listed operating hours, delivery options, and the like.
Now, the BBOT’s Burnaby business directory is used as a resource to help individuals and businesses shop, dine and source from local companies in their community.
"We're always looking to use our directory to encourage people to support their local businesses and support their fellow members, so it’s very much a tool we use to connect people."
Both the print and online membership directory are key components to enable Burnaby businesses to connect with customers and with each other. "Connecting businesses is at the heart of everything we do," says Holden.
If your business is located in Burnaby, or you do business in Burnaby, the BBOT is dedicated to bringing its members the tools, resources and connections needed to grow your business, and maintain a healthy and robust community in which everyone can thrive.
Holden cites two factors that puts Burnaby on the map as a successful city for business: location and proximity to education institutions.
"Burnaby is at the heart of the Lower Mainland, a great advantage for businesses in terms of access to employees, customers and transportation. Having both SFU and BCIT also gives employers access to a well-educated workforce. Plus, Burnaby is one of the most diverse communities in the country, which provides a great strength for us."
Industries straddle a large scope across various sectors that thrive in Burnaby from a strong community of principally small businesses to large corporate enterprises.
"I think we have a really good, lively mix of large companies, and not just market leaders locally, but global leaders in their sectors," says Holden. "When you have companies like that, they draw in ecosystems around them—businesses can thrive and be successful because we have those anchor businesses."
As the voice of local businesses, the BBOT represents more than 1,100 members from all major industries. Whether your goals are local or international, BBOT works on your behalf at the local, regional and federal levels.
As such, relative to the pandemic, they championed the use of outdoor space for businesses, which helped the hospitality sector with patio seating.
"It also gave people a chance in other businesses to use their outdoor space accordingly," says Holden. "We advocated for a change in the local bylaws to allow businesses more flexibility to conduct business. Additionally, we advocated for business support such as the commercial rent subsidy and the wage subsidy."
"Every business, regardless of size or sector, should explore the opportunities that are provided by being part of the BBOT, which is the only organization that exists entirely to support businesses that do business in Burnaby," says Holden. "We bring community and business leaders together and create a spirit of collaboration like no one else."