The Smithers District of Commerce’s new Live Love Local campaign is an evolution, says chamber manager Sheena Miller.
When the provincial government shut down non-essential businesses at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, the shop local campaign was designed to help local businesses survive.
But the stubbornness of the pandemic, and subsequent supply chain disruptions due to historic flooding in the province, underscored the broader sustainable economy and food security issues, Miller said.
Through efforts to support local businesses, she started recognizing there was a lot more going on a lot closer by than she realized. For example, she explained, there is a business directory of local food producers that covers pretty much everything people need.
“So, just looking at food security, we can live off of a local business directory on just food security,” she said, noting it has changed her own focus.
“So it’s just taking one step with my spending habits and rethinking how I spent and more than ever now I am trying to buy my food mostly local,” she said.
While people already travel to neighbouring towns in the Northwest to visit stores they don’t have in their own community, Miller said Highway 16 chambers of commerce recognized an opportunity for a broader cultural shift to a regional way of thinking locally.
What is good for Burns Lake is good for Smithers, the theory goes.
The current campaign asks people to Rethink, Inspire and Commit.
The rethink part encourages people to shop locally and support local businesses, but to also broaden their perspective that local could mean sourcing something from Terrace of Houston instead of looking to Vancouver or to big online retailers such as Amazon.
“As a resident of the Northwest, how do I support Prince Rupert?” Miller said.
The Live Love Local campaign is a joint effort between all the chambers of commerce along the Hwy 16 corridor from Vanderhoof to Prince Rupert.
“So, this is now about a shared regional economy,” she said. “And we’re asking participants to commit to the big picture, you know, to really examine what is that healthy regional economy?”
She said there are a number of different ways to get involved,
“We can all get behind it, we can all do something to support a healthy regional economy,” she said. “So, just think about… buying online from our local producers versus buying online from Amazon.”
Other suggestions were writing a positive business review, sharing the campaign and wearing some of the swag the chambers are giving away including face masks, baseball caps, tote bags and Live Love Local bumper stickers.
To get some of that swag, residents can register through their local chamber of commerce for a chance to win prizes.