“When there’s a crisis, you go to work and you get it done,” said Anne McMullin, President of Urban Development Institute, a non-profit association for BC’s real estate development industry. “We need to come together, more than ever, to rebuild and come out of this better than we were.”
A BCIT Journalism alumna (’91), Anne was part of an BCIT alumni guest speaker panel at BCIT Alumni Association’s 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on June 2. Held online for the first time ever, the event welcomed nearly 100 attendees from near and far, including Hong Kong, Manitoba, and New Jersey.
The speaker panel, which was moderated by Paul McCullough, Vice President, BCIT Advancement, included three business leaders, who shared insights on the impact of the pandemic on their industries: real estate development, e-grocery delivery, and hospitality and tourism.
Across all three industries, each of the speakers agreed: the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on consumer behaviour and the operations of organizations. Survival and success depends very much on adaptability in a new world of many unknowns.
“What do new homes look like?” said Anne about the future of new home development, particularly in the multi-family residential market. “Will [buyers] demand bigger units, office space, more outdoor space? And what does the amenity space look like? It’s going to change how we do business with each other.”
E-Grocery sees increased demand
BCIT Business alumnus (’10 and ’11) Reza Bafandeh, Vice President, Food-X Technologies, a fresh food delivery platform facility, said the pandemic created unprecedented demand for Food-X Technologies and its e-grocery clients, SPUD.ca, and Walmart, as more people opted for online grocery delivery.
“Not only did we have 20x growth on website, but from an infrastructure perspective, what load does that take?” he said about the effect on online grocery delivery. “We had to completely shift gears in terms of direction and methodology to serve customers in the way our business was intended to do… The transition pushed the e-grocery world about six to 10 years ahead of schedule. We had to work consistently to innovate and provide that same level of experience that you’d get going into a store.”
Soon after physical-distancing recommendations were made by BC’s Public Health Office and to meet the increased demand for online grocery shopping, Food-X Technologies had to expand its workforce quickly. Reza said the company connected with the hospitality industry—which has seen many businesses temporarily close—to hire displaced workers and partnered with touring companies to utilize their vehicles as part of its delivery fleet.
Doing the right thing will underpin survival
In Hong Kong, Brad Kirk, COO, Harilela Hotel Group and Hospitality alumnus (’78), said the region—whose economy was already buckling as a result of local protests—was hit hard when the pandemic emerged in January.
“At the end of January, we were already seeing business decimated as China was shutting down and Hong Kong started to take steps,” he shared. “As of January 29, we went down to two percent occupancy. Our China hotels were closed by the government instantly to keep everyone safe. It kept all our employees safe.”
Going forward, Brad said hospitality businesses that will succeed beyond COVID-19 are those who did the right things: “Were those businesses generous, open and honest, and truthful? If you did the right things, you’ll be rewarded. Hopefully we did the right things.”
Alumni Association highlights of the past year
During the AGM, BCIT Alumni Association President Emil Bosnjak talked about the accomplishments of the Association this past year, including the 2019 Distinguished Awards gala, the 40th anniversary of the Association, and the launches of the Fraser Valley chapter as well as the new BCIT Alumni Perks app. He also highlighted the Association’s $1 million pledge—the largest single gift in the Association’s history—towards BCIT’s INSPIRE Campaign to help establish an Alumni Centre at the Burnaby Campus, and a $10,000 donation to BCIT’s COVID-19 Emergency Student Response Fund.
“As the world changed so rapidly toward the end of March, we reworked our plans for the coming year to offer alumni more ways to engage and volunteer online,” said Emil, encouraging attendees to stay up to date through alumni newsletters, social media, the website, and the BCIT Alumni Perks app. “I’d like to thank all alumni who are involved and passionate about BCIT. You attend our events, volunteer on advisory committees and boards, many of you mentor students, or volunteer as guest speakers, donate, or you take part in our affinity programs. You make a huge difference, and we are extremely grateful.”
BCIT Board Chair and alumnus Doug Eveneshen, and BCIT President Kathy Kinloch expressed their gratitude to alumni, and for the partnership with the BCIT Alumni Association: “I’d like to acknowledge you for your generosity in the form of a $1 million donation toward BCIT’s INSPIRE Campaign and for your $10,000 gift to the COVID-19 Student Emergency Response Fund,” said Kathy. “This generosity will help our current students follow in your footsteps despite the significant financial and other challenges of the ongoing pandemic. You, our BCIT alumni, continue to be the leaders, innovators, and creators in this new paradigm of physical distancing and keeping each other safe.”
Watch the video (below) of the AGM highlights including the full guest speaker panel dialogue. The BCIT Alumni Association President Emil Bosnjak shares the Association’s highlights in the President’s Report at approximately 14:15 and the speaker panel starts at approximately the 32:00 mark.
Special thanks to our generous event sponsors Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of British Columbia (ASTTBC) and BCIT School of Business + Media, and our Affinity Partners TD Insurance, iA Financial Group, Prospera, and BMO.