July/August 2020 – Facing the Music

With a mission to inform, empower, celebrate and advocate for British Columbia's current and aspiring business leaders, BCBusiness go behind the headlines and bring readers face to face with the key issues and people driving business in B.C.

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says Tratto is being extra careful for two reasons: the age of the locals and the approaching tourist season. "People are going to travel, regard- less of whether they are supposed to or not," he says, "and that doesn't bode well for Penticton," where the median age is 52. Weighing the risks that reopening could bring for a particularly vulnerable population is tough, he adds: "I'm not wor- ried about tourism in terms of my business–not as much as the idea of having an outbreak here that we aren't capable of controlling." Royal is also conscious of the effect that a rigid reservation system (and ignorant individuals) may have on his employees. "There's no doubt that we're going to have to deal with some ridiculous idiot who comes in proclaiming himself the king of COVID," he says. "And who deals with that? A server who's being paid minimum wage." Tostenson thinks the biggest change for dine-in could be in sanitization–not how often it's done but how conspicuous it is. "You'll see signs of cleaning which otherwise would have happened behind the scenes," he says. (When it comes to reassuring customers, the industry could face challenges: in a recent survey, Ipsos found that just 2 per- cent of Canadians trust full-service restaurants' cleanliness and safety protocols, versus 40 percent for grocery stores, the leader by a wide margin.) Through a new program, the BCRFA will acknowledge the spots going above and beyond to limit the spread of coronavirus. Most restaurants will embrace technology for contactless pay and online ordering. Tostenson says some might venture further and use robots to serve food, which minimizes contact and cuts labour costs. "I don't love that as a concept because ultimately, a restaurant is about social interaction," he says. No matter how much time passes or how the numbers change, the industry will never quite be the same, Tostenson believes. "I think there's a consciousness now that we need a little bit more space," he says. "We've had this pandemic, and we might have another one, so let's be prepared…because we can't go through this again." –A.H. APRIL 2020 JULY/AUGUST 2020 BCBUSINESS 25 making the case that B.C. can prosper by learning to harness the constant disruption and uncertainty we must learn to expect. "What we're learning from the pan- demic, and the work that these amazing people did, is all about building resiliency for our economy and looking into the future and see- ing where our opportunities are, regardless of the crises that may come our way," Mungall says. With her government forecast- ing a $12.5-billion deficit for the 2020-21 fiscal year, she believes public investment should continue as the pandemic recedes. "What we have learned time and time again is that when our societies go into crisis, that's the last point in time when governments should be practising financial austerity." Acknowledging the importance of wage subsidies and other government aid, economist Peacock wants to avoid making life more expensive or difficult for busi- nesses. "Why on earth would we increase taxes and add regulatory burdens or costs to businesses while at the same time, gov- ernments are propping them up?" he asks. "Don't add any additional costs for a cou- ple of years, maybe three." BCBC executive vice-president and chief policy officer Jock Finlay- son, who sits on the EETF, doesn't think Canada will have the cash to launch its own Green New Deal. But he sees an opening for B.C. as Western multinationals weigh repatriating their global supply chains in the wake of the pandemic. If U.S. manufacturing and technology companies start making things in North America, the province could pitch itself as a production hub, mostly by dangling the low Canadian dollar. "It's going to take a complete rethinking of tax policy and other things," Finlayson says. "And we're never going to be the low-wage, super-low-cost jurisdiction, but we do have some strengths, especially in some of the technology-related industries." Technology is the way forward for Raghwa Gopal, president and CEO of Crown agency Innovate BC. Gopal points to a World Economic Forum forecast that by 2022, 60 percent of global GDP will be digitized, and that over the next decade, digitally enabled platforms will account for 70 percent of new economic value. "Tech companies today in British Columbia are creating technology that will enable the other sectors to become resilient and get into the digital age." Bucking the trend, B.C. tech busi- nesses keep hiring. Gopal thinks the shift to working from home has broadened the provincial job market. But when it comes to talent, the bigger opportunity is interna- tional, says the EETF member. "Because of the political stability and how we've been able to handle the COVID crisis, I think a lot of people will look at British Columbia as a very good place to come to." M A N U F A C T U R I N G Make or Break IT WAS BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR MANY B.C. MANUFACTURERS, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THERE AREN'T CHANGES ON THE HORIZON THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC didn't stop most manufacturers in the province from continuing to do their jobs—many were pro- tected under the essential service designation. But in some ways, the crisis has changed their industry, for now and for the long haul. Some changes, like demand for certain things (masks, Plexi- glas and so on), may not last forever, but they've allowed busi- nesses to keep operating at close to full capacity when there was less need for their regular products. The pandemic has also shown the value of being flexible enough to pivot operations, a lesson the industry won't take for granted. Looking further ahead, things are a little more muddled, as always. You'd assume that a global health emergency would wreak havoc on international supply chains. That's certainly true for makers of personal protective equipment, for instance. But for one of B.C.'s fastest-growing online retailers? Not so much. "The supply chain globally has been under stress, for sure—it hasn't been without complications. However, we haven't had much, if any, disruption," says Cristian Chavez, senior vice-president, supply chain, at Vancouver-based furniture merchant Article. Chavez credits that to the company's status as an e-commerce-only operation and its strong, direct relationships with manufacturers in China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam, plus the fact that Article owns BC 2.0 BCBUSINESS.CA

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