By Michel Brisson

The lockdown that began March 14 was not easy for businesses in Brome Lake. On the other hand, the pandemic that initially forced some to unusual idleness resulted in an overflow of energy for others. Chantale Lajoie of Barnes Hardware has never sold as much paint and brushes as she did at the beginning of spring. And because it was particularly early, consumers then went to great ends to deplete the stocks of gardening materials. The store is still thriving and is seeking employees.“My file of applicants is empty though” mentioned Chantale.

At Léon Courville, Vigneron, sales initially declined due to the closure of restaurants and the interruption of social and commercial events. When it comes to labour, a vineyard has to deal with a complex problem. This year, while Mexican seasonal workers were in quarantine, Anne-Marie Lemire (co-owner) was happy to tell me that “We have been fortunate enough to count on a team of very helpful 35 Quebecers recruited urgently.” Everything seems to be back to normal, but on-site sales is more complex. Visitors from other regions less affected by the pandemic are surprised by the cautionary measures put in place.

At Windrush Boutique, business is picking up, thanks to a new clientele. Chantale Cloutier and Ian Bryson, co-owners, have noticed the incoming of new “more permanent” residents who decided to spend more time in TBL and the area since the beginning of COVID-19. The scarcity of vacations abroad has also triggered a budgetary shift entailing spending more on personal comfort. “I must say that our suppliers have been particularly supportive and comprehensive during this difficult period,” added Ms Cloutier.

Windmill Plastics was recently recruiting for three to five per- manent production positions. Maryse Porlier, Director of Human Resources, tells us that after a two-week hiatus, production has resumed. “The situation has improved and the demand for our products has increased significantly,” mentioned Ms Porlier. Recruitment, obviously, is dependent on increased labour shortages. The level of entry wages had to be increased to maintain attractiveness. The majority of employees, (many female employees in production), are from the Brome-Missisquoi area, (Waterloo, Cowansville), but very few from TBL.

On the issue of the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB), the response was positive in only one case. It was mostly seen as a barrier to recruitment, especially for student jobs. Denis Beauchamp, Director of the Brome-Missisquoi CLD, (Centre Local de Développement) drew our attention to the challenge faced by employers in the current context. The scarcity of labour, coupled with health risks, may force them to consider increasing pay scales.