MINTO – The town’s economic development department is moving from response to reaction mode with its efforts to help local businesses through COVID-19 pandemic disruptions.
During a verbal report at the May 5 town council video-conference meeting, economic development manager Belinda Wick-Graham explained the first phase of the town’s plan included reaching out to local businesses and providing webinars designed to guide business through the crisis.
Over the last several weeks, Wick-Graham and Launch it businesses development coordinator Somer Antonopoulos have been calling and emailing local businesses to determine their needs and to offer assistance.
As of May 1 they had contacted 182 business with more calls planned that week, Wick-Graham reported.
“We may not have hit everyone but we’ve hit a large majority of our businesses,” she noted, adding, “We’ve been able to help quite a few of them out.”
Wick-Graham pointed out the Minto Chamber of Commerce-led Think Minto First program now has 40-businesses participating, “which is great.”
The program allows community organizations to sell gift cards on behalf of local businesses and receive a portion of the proceeds.
Councillor Jean Anderson asked if Wick-Graham is aware of any local businesses that have had to close or are “at real risk of closing” due to pandemic-related issues.
“We know of one business that has closed (Grampa Scott’s Eating Spot in Palmerston),” Wick-Graham responded.
“I have not talked to any other businesses that have said they are going to close.”
She added, “They’ve all been pretty good at taking advantage of the programs that have been offered,” but, “there are some who are falling through the cracks.”
Wick-Graham said provincial funding expected to flow through Community Futures Development Corporations should help many of the businesses not covered by other federal or provincial programs.
“I think down the road the next step will be from economic development,” said Mayor George Bridge, noting the topic of re-starting the local economy was discussed at a recent call between Wellington County and member municipality officials.
“We’re going to have to get a program together to see how we open up businesses as we go forward and how do we get the economy back rolling,” Bridge stated.
“I think the province and federal government will be looking to municipalities to be the spearhead of that and I think we have to be ready.”
Wick-Graham said her department is already looking ahead to the opening up of the local economy.
“After this week we will be transitioning from our reaction phase into to a response phase. So our webinars will likely lighten up unless there’s something coming down about how people can reopen,” she explained.
“We’re also working with the chamber and working with local suppliers sourcing PPE (personal protective equipment) for our local businesses.
“We want to make sure that we’re ahead of the game and it’s not, when they’re told that they can open that when they go looking for stuff, that they have access to it now.”
She pointed out a number of local businesses have access to PPE, “so that’s great.”