At a time when the Internet has become the lifeblood of the business environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Enderby and District Chamber of Commerce is proposing a new program to help businesses level up their online toolkits.
Clyde MacGregor, the chamber’s general manager, says the proposed program “fills a real gap in the service delivery model,” allowing North Okanagan businesses to evolve their platforms and in turn make for a more diverse rural economy.
“The entire point of this program and the entire thrust of my economic development strategy for our region is that rural does not equal agricultural, rural does not equal agro-business,” MacGregor said. “As we’ve seen from the pandemic, when there are adverse circumstances an entire industry can be crippled if you can’t get workers in, if there’s some sort of outbreak.”
The Rural Business Skills Training Program would consist of three monthly seminars open to all Regional District of North Okanagan business members. The courses would focus on basic e-business skills — “everything from how does the computer turn on to how does my word processor work, how does a spreadsheet work to the bit more advanced kit,” MacGregor said.
The hope is to start the program sometime in February pending the completion of the grant process.
Other e-business skills on offer include digitally monitoring sales and receipts, self-promotion using social media and — more relevant than ever — sharing business hours and COVID-19 information far and wide.
At its core, the program aims to ensure business owners in rural areas can make the same gains more often seen in cities, which would be a mutual benefit to rural business owners and their rural communities.
“Whether they’re a weaver working at home or a mechanic, being able to have this sort of basic e-business literacy allows them to work from home, to be rural and then to put that money back into their rural properties, so that makes our entire bottom line better.”
It’s something MacGregor has focused on since coming on board as the chamber’s GM in February, shortly before the pandemic made e-business an essential skill rather than a luxury for rural businesses.
The program comes at a cost of $20,000. At the RDNO’s electoral area director meeting earlier this month, $10,000 was provided to service Area F (Enderby and area) and keep the program open to people throughout the rest of the North Okanagan as well.
MacGregor says the $10,000 is enough to roll out a skeletal program. Pending a grant award that’s expected to be announced Jan. 20, the chamber will be able to host a full complement of courses every month, year-round.
There are also opportunities for businesses to rent digital devices from the chamber, and they can apply for up to four hours of tutoring after taking part in the course.
To learn more, visit the Enderby and District Chamber website.