Marketing identified as key concern by local businesses impacted by wildfires

Data supplied by businesses will assist in recovery efforts.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) held a second round of economic recovery meetings in Ashcroft and Cache Creek on December 20 and 21, in order to present the findings from the first round of community sessions and an online survey of area businesses that was carried out throughout the month.

Representatives from different aid organizations were at the Ashcroft meeting on the 20th, although bad weather kept many of them away from the Cache Creek meetings the next day.

Colin O’Leary, who has been hired by the TNRD as an economic recovery manager in the wake of last summer’s wildfires, said at a meeting in Cache Creek on December 21 that 107 businesses had taken part in the survey, making the results statistically significant. “We can use the data.”

He said that the province has identified four areas toward which recovery efforts should be directed: people, the economy, the environment, and reconstruction.

“We’ve been actively engaging with the business community, trying to quantify the economic loss in the region and identify opportunities and shortcomings with existing support programs. We’ll then recommend possible programs and opportunities for the TNRD to undertake moving forward. What can we do for you and your business?”

Looking at the survey results, O’Leary said that 30 per cent of the respondents were in the accommodation or food service sectors. Seventy-five per cent of all the respondents indicated that their business made less than $250,000 per year, and/or that they had 10 or fewer employees, indicating the importance of small businesses to the local economy.

Looking at what gaps exist for recovery for business owners, the top answers were marketing support, money, information about recovery funding, building codes and permits, and insurance. The top drivers for business losses during the wildfires were highway closures, evacuation alerts, and evacuation orders.

O’Leary said he had heard from lots of businesses that they had not received funding from the Red Cross, but added that many business owners had then said “I don’t think I’m eligible.”

“This shows that they haven’t tried [applying for funds]. Don’t disqualify yourself. Some of the eligibility criteria has shifted.” A spokesperson from the Canadian Red Cross who was at the meeting reiterated this advice.

“Put an application in even if you think you’re not eligible,” she advised. Phase two of Red Cross funding for eligible businesses and non-profit organizations is now available, and can provide up to $18,500 for businesses and $8,500 for non-profits that were affected by the wildfires. Businesses and organizations that did not apply for phase one funding (of up to $1,500) can still apply for phase two.

“People say ‘I’m not eligible because I have insurance,’ but a lot will be missed by insurance coverage. Call us.”

Marketing emerged as the top answer to a question asking what the TNRD can do to help businesses in the short term. “The message from businesses is that they want to change the marketing message for next season right now,” said O’Leary. “We’re moving from response to recovery.”

To contact O’Leary about the TNRD’s economic recovery program, email recovery@tnrd.ca. To contact the Red Cross about phase two funding, go to http://bit.ly/2ltntuU.

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