It is no secret that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the Alberta economy. A report by the Business Council of Alberta last month indicated that one in four Alberta CEOs are not sure their business will survive the crisis. And it isn’t just the oil & gas industry that is taking a hit; Alberta Central’s Chief Economist Charles St-Arnaud is flagging job losses in the service and hospitality industries, a decline to the tune of 50%. In fact, restaurant activity in Alberta is 61% lower than it was at this time last year.
One of the top three barriers to resuming normal operations post-COVID is a change in consumer demand preferences; due to economic uncertainty, many Albertans are not spending money at the same rate or they have changed their buying behaviour after self-isolating, shopping online and ordering takeout more often and having purchases delivered directly to their doors.
But there is good news! Alberta is now in Stage 2 of its relaunch, which means we have an opportunity to support Alberta businesses as they reopen, keeping our hard-earned money in Alberta and protecting the vitality of our communities. Alberta’s Credit Unions have been community-minded for over 100 years, partnering with small businesses and giving back to the communities where we live and work. We encourage you to #shoplocal this summer, and while there are more than a few reasons to support small business, here are some of our favourites:
1. You’ll know where your money goes.
Buying from someone you know allows you to see your money make a difference. The profits aren’t being sent to a different province or country, they’re staying right here to improve the lives of your community members. Small business owners are more likely to support other small businesses as well, often securing products and services and creating an exponential boost to the economy.
This is not a new model to us; when you bank with a credit union, you are a member and benefit from annual profit sharing. Alberta credit unions shared back $90 million with members in 2019, directly benefiting Albertans and their communities! (That’s much more than what the Big Five can say.)
2. You’ll help create local jobs.
Most new jobs are created by small business. In fact, Statistics Canada reports that 74% of Albertans work for a small business (1-99 employees) and are the largest employers nationally. That means your local mom-and-pop shop not only adds character to your community and keeps dollars within the province, but it also keeps young people close to home, reduces overall commuting time and increases quality of life.
DYK? There are 16 credit unions that have close to 200 branches located across rural and urban communities. Right now, credit unions employ 3,320 Albertans across our province.
3. You’ll be part of building a community.
Locally-owned businesses care about more than just their bottom line; as community members, small business owners are actively invested in the well-being of their neighbours and clients. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Crossroads Market in Calgary provided additional support to the small businesses operating in their facility by working with First Calgary Financial through a member relief program, and Alberta’s credit unions provided critical pandemic support to members this year.
On top of the annual returns our owner-members benefit from, credit unions have a long history of giving back. In 2018, $4.6 million was donated back to communities in Alberta, and credit union employees contributed nearly 16,000 volunteer hours.
“Much like many small businesses, you get that personal service and that one-on-one. You’re not just a number,” says Bryan B. – an Alberta credit union member.
4. You’ll support entrepreneurship.
Albertans are incredible people. Over time we’ve built great industries, institutions and communities, with a standard of living that for many years has been a lure for entrepreneurs and anyone who dreamt big. And Alberta is the epicenter of Canada’s thriving entrepreneurial spirit; some 384,000 small businesses in the province rub shoulders and compete with national and international giants.
Alberta’s credit unions focus on providing capital to growth-oriented entrepreneurs and small businesses, lending $23.4 billion in to Albertans in 2019. This means that Albertans can invest in local businesses and see the impact of that investment, as opposed to investing in portfolios traded on Wall Street and Bay Street.
5. You’ll reduce environmental impact.
Small businesses often set up in a city/town centre where there is a large concentration of patrons. When customers can walk to various amenities, they are reducing their carbon footprint and contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution. We have already talked about what it means to keep people employed locally, limiting commuting time and improving quality of life, and it is important to think about the environmental impact of ordering disinfecting wipes off the internet and having planes, trains and automobiles involved in the supply chain!
Fact: Alberta has almost 200 credit union branches across the province, and provide local banking services to rural communities that would otherwise have to drive for extended periods of time to provide business continuity.
There are so many great reasons to shop local, but we think the most important one is the experience that you will exchange with a local shop owner and its employees. Credit Unions have won the Ipsos Financial Service Excellence award for customer service for the last 15 years, so we know a thing or two about personal touch! Small business owners and employees are invested in the success of their business, and understand that customer service is their biggest differentiator from multi-national providers who don’t hire according to specific skill or expertise.
Come into a credit union and see the difference. It is our mission to surprise and delight every one of our member-owners.