LaunchIt successful with move to virtual training platforms

MINTO – LaunchIt Minto was successful in providing training and assistance online while closed to the public during the early stages of the pandemic.

Although the LaunchIt office in Harriston is once again open to the public, it was forced to close in mid-March due to COVID-19 and direct business training efforts to a virtual platform.

“This proved to be very successful pulling in over 510 attendees to 14 virtual training sessions,” the minutes of the Oct. 15 economic development committee state.

Small business advisor Harold DeVries continued to virtually meet with 42 clients.

Small business development coordinator Somer Antonopoulos estimated she had well over 300 connections with business via text, email, phone or in person to connect them with resources, training, financial assistance, business promotion and various other things in 2020.

Antonopoulos told the committee the Digital Service Squad for Wellington North, Mapleton and Minto has been extremely busy.

In her first month Ashley Noble, who is working with the squad on a six-month contact, met with 26 businesses and will be assisting 10 of them in applying for a digital transformation grant.

Economic development manager Belinda Wick Graham advised council at the Oct. 20 meeting that “despite COVID our businesses here are still looking for workers.”

TG Minto representatives reported at the committee meeting the Palmerston plant is producing at an-all-time high, with projected increases for the upcoming year.

The auto parts manufacturer is currently hiring for 100 open positions while utilizing 190 temporary workers daily.

Officials noted the company is very diligent in protocols, which has resulted in them being one of the few TG facilities with zero COVID-19 cases through the pandemic.

Wick-Graham noted local businesses that employ personal support workers are also struggling to keep their rosters full.

“It seems to be a continuous problem despite COVID, so there are jobs to be had,” she noted.

The struggles of business owners and staff with various aspects of the pandemic, including uncertainty about the future, have negative impacts on mental health, Wick-GrAham noted.

She advised council the idea of offering mental health programs through LaunchIt is being looked at.

In addition to businesses, Wick-Graham pointed out local community groups are also struggling with financial and other concerns due to the pandemic.

“We are concerned about our community groups here in Minto,” she said.

“A lot of them depend on our local businesses for donations, sponsorships, things like that and everyone is scared to approach those businesses in times like this, and rightfully so.”

Wick-Graham added that staff and the committee are looking at ways “we go ahead into 2021 supporting our volunteer groups.”

She told council the pandemic doesn’t seem to be adversely impacting the local housing market.

“On the residential side things are obviously going well. We see a lot of people moving here from larger centres,” she stated.

“On the bad side, it’s driving the price of housing up even further than it was before. But our subdivisions are selling very well.

“In 2021 we’ll get back to working on our Move to Minto campaign again.”

Royal bank building

During the committee meeting, Wick-Graham updated members on plans for restoration of the former Royal Bank building in Harriston.

She said renderings have been made by an architect for a renovation that would include 16 apartments and several commercial units.

Wick-Graham noted staff have been working with the property owner to advise on grants available at the local municipal and county levels.

She indicated the owner is aiming to have work started in 2021.