While small businesses are the backbone of the community, they are some of the hardest hit by this year’s wildfire season, according to South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce executive director Shelly Morton.
“Small businesses in the South Cariboo are the driving force of the economy in not only the South Cariboo but all of British Columbia. They are the backbone of our communities” she says.
According to the chamber, 98 percent of all business in the province is small business, accounting for 33 per cent of the province’s GDP.
“The small businesses and entrepreneurs in our area are our neighbours, friends and the people that support the many events, non-profits and fundraisers that make our community the place it is.”
Because of the wildfires, many of those businesses were forced to close down due to evacuations and, unless they were covered by disruption insurance, were left unable to recover the loss of income from that period.
Other businesses had contracts cancelled because of a loss of wages from the contractor.
Some, especially tourism operations, may have been outside of evacuation order areas, but saw less business throughout the summer as wildfires raged and highway access was limited.
Now, the $1,500 small business grants are beginning to trickle in.
“Listening to businesses that have received the $1,500 from the Red Cross, they are, of course, grateful. But that being said, it was money that was gone as soon as it was deposited in the bank and nowhere near covers the losses businesses have suffered,” says Morton.
She is calling on the provincial government for more support and quickly so businesses aren’t forced to close.
“Businesses in the South Cariboo need more than a drop in the bucket to rebuild for 2018,” she says.
“The support needs to come quickly to help businesses through the slower winter months so they have the funds they need to make 2018 a rebound year.”
Other supports for small business are out there.
Businesses are still able to apply for the Red Cross grant, while the Province of B.C. and Small Business B.C. are teaming up to offer free services to small businesses affected by wildfire.
Through this, businesses can register to receive one-on-one consultation services in accounting by phone or skype through the Chartered Professional Accountants of BC or they can consult with a lawyer through a partnership with the Benchmark Law Corporation.
Otherwise, Morton says it’s important for residents of the area to shop locally.
“Now that we are heading into winter it is very important the businesses receive the support of the community. It is extremely important that we, as a community, pledge to shop local.
“Not just for a short amount of time, but to consider shopping local always. This ensures that the next time you go into town, that there isn’t another business closing up, or another business that has to say no to a child’s sports team sponsorship request as they do not have the extra funds to donate or another business that cannot hire full-time employees. This also ensures that you, your neighbours, friends, and family have a place to apply for employment.”
Morton emphasises that small businesses played a significant role in helping the community through the wildfires.
“Our local businesses have gone above and beyond this summer with supporting local food banks, donating product out of the stores and coming back to our community after evacuations and opening their doors when they themselves have been evacuated out of their own homes.
“We all know someone that owns a small business, works at a small business, or counts on the products and services of a small business. They are the heart of our community’s economic force. Remember, small businesses range from your neighbourhood rancher to a local artisan, from retail stores to local contractors and our local resort owners to our coffee shops.”
She asks that people take a pledge to shop locally.
“Small businesses are a big deal.”