The pandemic that has hit the globe, has had major economic ramifications, which includes temporary to permanent business closures for some, while loss of job for others. The Village of Burns Lake specifically has taken a substantial hit due to the COVID crisis. To combat the crisis however, the village is already taking steps towards building up the community, by helping local businesses and drawing plans to boost tourism in the region.
Earlier last month, the village conducted a survey to find out the impact that the pandemic had on the local businesses and economy. The outcome of the survey showed how much the local businesses had suffered due to the crisis.
“The Village of Burns Lake economy has been severely impacted by COVID-19 like many communities across Canada. Many businesses have closed temporarily, laid off employees, shortened hours of operation or transitioned their business to curb-side pick up or delivery only,” said Chief Administrative Officer Sheryl Worthing in an email to Lakes District News.
Worthing also said that the survey showed that the local business community has lost over 80 per cent of their revenue due to the COVID-19 restrictions. She mentioned that several business owners identified their need for financial assistance to cover their operational costs while several others also identified specific needs, that were unique to their own businesses, in the survey.
Village council has now sprung into action in response to the survey and are undertaking a number of different projects in order to restore normalcy to the locals. Worthing mentioned a few of the steps that the village is taking, based on the results of the survey such as contacting local businesses and offering one-on-one support, providing business owners with information about funding opportunities and other helpful information, providing access to training and information on how to transition businesses to e-commerce as the survey revealed many businesses had already started shifting to online purchase, supporting and promoting “Buy Local” initiatives for example, supportlocalbc.com that gives local businesses the ability to sell gift cards for their business online. The village has also contracted a grant writer on staff, funded by the Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) that now is available to assist business owners with grant applications
Worthing also mentioned that the $20, 000 grant that the village received through NDIT for the Business Façade Improvement Program, would be diverted to the new Covid-19 Small Business Relief Fund “that will help businesses recoup some of the costs incurred by COVID-19’s new guidelines i.e. sanitation procedures, protection guards(sneeze guards), etc.” She added that the businesses would be able to apply for up to $500 for COVID-19 specific expenses.
Additionally, council recognized the need for improvement in tourism to encourage the economic growth in a sustainable manner and believe that it would be an important tool in the recovery from the pandemic. A survey to identify the key areas for improvement for tourism was conducted earlier this month. This survey, in conjunction with the business impact and recovery survey, would “assist the tourism consultant in identifying strategic actions that will assist Burns Lake to become a more resilient community.”
Based on the results of the survey, and in consultation with the various local community stakeholders and the contracted tourism consultant, the 2012 Burns Lake and District Tourism Plan would be updated by August 2020. The plan, once approved by the council, would then act as a guide in the Burns Lake tourism plan for the next three years. “The village will begin implementing recommendations and incorporating these actions into the economic development workplan,” said Worthing, adding that the council would look to apply for specific tourism funding opportunities to make that possible.
“The tourism plan will incorporate recovery actions that have been caused by the pandemic,” said Worthing. She also added that the council recognized that each business’ need would be different and “it is not a one fits all strategy.”