Concerts are starting up and restaurants are filling up, giving central Alberta’s economy a much needed, post-pandemic re-boot, says the Red Deer chamber’s CEO.
“You can see it and feel it: A lot of people are spending money again,” said Rick More, CEO of the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce. “It’s like we’re all coming out of our caves…”
For a year and a half, Red Deer-area residents — like people all over the globe — have been in lockdown mode to try to reduce surging cases of a new coronavirus.
But as vaccinations against COVID-19 have increased in recent weeks and case numbers have decreased, jurisdictions have started removing restrictions. Alberta’s government lifted its mask policy and has allowed festivals and fairs to happen as of July 1.
The effect on the population is palpable, said More. “You can see it’s slowly starting to come back…”
People are streaming into restaurants, movie theatres and flocking to outdoor concerts, he added.
While some central Albertans had lost jobs due to the pandemic, others managed to put more money into savings. And More believes some of the additional disposable income is now being spent on the things people have been feeling deprived of.
“People always want what they can’t have,” he reasoned, so there’s a renewed appetite for eating out and entertainment.
More believes this pent-up demand can help shake central Alberta’s economy out of what had been a prolonged recession before the pandemic broke out in early 2020.
He’s heard that some local businesses are already starting to hire again — and “that’s good, because it people aren’t working, they aren’t spending.”
More jobs are being freed up by baby boomers, who are retiring earlier than planned “because the pandemic has changed their mindset,” said More. Meanwhile, “young people are starting to spread their wings…”
He’s heard some firms that have job openings are getting 100 or more resumés. “There will be no shortage (of new hiring) if the economy ramps up.”
But More believes some compromises will have to be made on the part of employers and employees in the new post-pandemic world.
Many people, who have been working from home, weighed the pros and cons and decided they want that kind of flexibility in future, he said.
More believes companies will have to offer employees more of these kinds of options if they want to attract and retain high-quality workers.