The Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce reports 70 per cent of businesses anticipate growth over the next five years. (News Bulletin photo)

Ladysmith businesses optimistic about recovery

Chamber economic recovery coordinator presents report to town council

Business owners in Ladysmith, even the ones hard-hit by the pandemic, feel optimistic that COVID recovery will present opportunities, says the chamber of commerce.

Millie Stirling, economic recovery coordinator with the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce, presented to town council this month about recent consultation with merchants as well as current and upcoming initiatives.

Stirling said she conducted a ‘business walk’ this past fall and connected with more than 100 local businesses to try to “take the pulse” of how they were faring.

“Although the world has felt like a pretty negative place over the past two years, the business walk in Ladysmith showed me something else. It showed me that we have a strong sense of community,” she said.

“There were people who opened businesses during COVID, that expanded businesses during COVID and businesses that actually thrived during COVID,” she said.

Stirling said 70 per cent reported plans to expand their business over the next five years.

She acknowledged that some have faced “hardship” as well. She recently arranged to accompany MP Lisa Marie Barron on visits to three local businesses, which shared experiences from their “COVID journey” and provided their opinions.

Stirling also spoke to town council about shop local initiatives that have happened or are happening, mentioning heritage and Christmas light walking tours, a gift certificate program and an advertising campaign. She said the Locals Love Ladysmith shop local campaign “has been a tremendous success” with businesses keen to participate in feature interviews for social media posts.

“They are advertising, but it’s the best kind of advertising because we are telling their stories,” she said.

Stirling’s current position with the chamber is part of a contract with Island Coastal Economic Trust, but she will become the chamber’s executive director this summer.

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, who is also ICE-T board chairperson, said he’s “really excited” to see that the chamber has been making “great progress” and hopes that further funding can help advance that work.

“I’d encourage you to keep looking at the funding programs that are available…” he said. “At ICE-T we’re administrating some additional funding for tourism and Destination B.C. as well as minor capital opportunities.”

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