Supporting Local in the Alberta Economy!

Recently, the Alberta Government increased the minimum wage in the province to $15.00/hour, which in most Albertan communities (probably not Calgary) is considered a ‘living wage’. If you are unfamiliar with the term ‘living wage’ it implies that someone can live comfortably on that wage working full time. Pre-1980s, living wages were considered enough to support a small household on one income, but in recent years the living wage has shifted to mean it can support a single person, or a couple, on one annual income.

This is certainly a step in the right direction, and there are a lot of businesses out there who support living-wage policies in Alberta. For a long time there has been a surplus of businesses (mainly large corporate entities) relying on foreign labour programs and minimum-wage employees to keep their profit margins high in lean times. This often means that businesses overload their HR rosters with minimum-wage employees who are given short shifts and part-time hours with no benefits instead of employing full-time workers entitled to benefits and other neat things like paid vacation.

While job-creation numbers appear good, this means that fewer people are making ends meet, and often are required to hold down several jobs (often at contradictory or inconvenient hours) in order to pay basic bills. It’s tough.

However, there is a segment of business that does support a living wage as a minimum wage, and we are proud to count ourselves among them. While other business owners may be feeling the strain of the increase, since Day 1 at the brewery we have paid better than a living wage to all our employees so the increases don’t really effect us. We do appreciate though, that some locally-owned companies are feeling the pinch of increased costs around their labour, and so we wanted to write today to remind you to Support Local.

I know what you’re thinking. Local shops can have weird, inconvenient hours. The products inside are generally more expensive than big box-stores and online shopping. Going outside means (ugh) you might have to “people” if you walk into a friendly local shop.

It will be okay. (Some shop owners don’t want to people either, so if you tell them you aren’t in the mood to socialize they will be happy to leave you alone…we do this all the time.)

Spending your dollar at your local stores ensures that those stores have some kind of future as we watch more and more retail business switch to convenience-driven online purchases, or box-store visits. Yes, it is mildly less convenient to make 2 stops instead of 1 “supercentre” stop, but it means that you are keeping local businesses viable, and keeping your hard-earned dollar in the community rather than send it to some off-shore tax haven account and buying a millionaire another yacht.

There has definitely been a shift in market trends in the last decade or so. The mega-stores are starting to feel the pinch of online buying, while local store owners are beginning to glimpse the horizon of a “shop local” economy that is being driven by, of all people, Millennials!

That’s right, the dreaded Millennial and Gen Zeds are threatening the whole global economy by *gasp! sourcing local! As more information comes out about our wasteful food systems, our over-processed “not-quite-food-but-still-edible-substances”, and the general societal wealth discrepancies in western cultures, we are starting to realize our system is kind of broken. Pair that with a hyper-awareness of global climate change and social inequities in developing countries and we have a recipe for a renaissance of local shopping.

But, it is a long hard slog, and we are going to lose a lot of amazing businesses along the way. While we in the craft brewing and distilling industries are experiencing a “boom” in the number of Albertan breweries opening up (congrats to all our new industry friends, by the way!) we will also start to see some market competitiveness. Don’t get us wrong, some market competition increases innovation in the marketplace and weeds out poor product— meaning it can be a good thing, BUT, we also have to remember that over 80% of Alberta’s beer market share is still owned by 3 mega-corporation breweries (Molson, Labatt, and Budweiser) and all their “craft” brands that they secretly own.

It is time for small business across Alberta to band together and promote each other, and that doesn’t mean breweries just supporting other breweries, or just those locations on our client rosters. It means that we need to reach into pockets of the community and seek partnerships with other businesses to strengthen our “shop local” message. There are so many opprotunties for thinking outside the box in our fledgling industry, and it’s time that local business lifted each other up on the rising tide of the Shop Local movement.

So, how do we put our money where our mouth is? Well, we are proud to tell you that we are sourcing 99% of our ingredients from Canadian markets (the 1% not sourced from Canadian markets are not made in Canada and must be sourced from the US...the minute we find a Canadian producer we will make the switch!)

This is a good start, but it doesn’t really help out some of our in-town business friends. So we are putting a challenge out to our staff and our clients: take 1 month out of the year and source everything extra you buy: food, coffee, entertainment, experiences, etc. from a local producer. Just 30 days of shopping local can have an amazing effect. No chains, no short-cuts, no online shopping for 30 days.

And! Since January is the HARDEST MONTH EVER for small businesses…we are going to be launching this initiative January 1st, 2019.

Kelti Baird