The village’s economic development officer, Lorie Watson, will be presented with a provincial economic development award for a program she developed to support local business owners.
Watson designed and proposed the Business Accelerator Program back in September 2020, to Rio Tinto, in order to help local businesses transition and develop their foothold online. The British Columbia Economic Development Association (BCEDA) recently announced their 2021 BC Economic Development Awards for which the village of Burns Lake’s Burns Lake Business Accelerator Program developed by Watson won the Economic Recovery and Resiliency Award.
The program, which was launched in partnership with Rio Tinto, aimed to provide local business owners with the tools and skills to increase their ability to benefit from having a stronger presence online. During a Sept. 1 2020 council meeting, the village approved up to $10,000 to support the business accelerator program in addition to Rio Tinto’s $11,000.
“We are very proud of our Economic Development Officer and are pleased with the outcome of this program. It’s been great to partner with Rio Tinto and we truly appreciate the good work that went into supporting local businesses,” said Worthing on behalf of the village.
In October 2020, the village hired a digital consultant to assist in developing and delivering the program. While the program was designed keeping in mind 25 participants, only seven local business owners in Burns Lake participated. The 15 week course started on Oct. 20, 2020 and lasted until Feb. 22 this year. At the end of the program, not only did each participant receive a fully operational, responsive, new website, but also received digital marketing training to manage their businesses online.
According to Worthing, if more local business owners are interested in the program the Village may consider offering the program again in the future.
“The award means a lot to me and it really is an honour to be recognized for the work that went into the program that made it successful and I am so happy that the program was able to benefit our local business community,” said Watson.
At the beginning of the program, Rio Tinto had said that they would be treating this business accelerator program as a pilot program and if successful, they would be implementing this program in other communities.
“At the end of the program, the feedback from participants has been very positive and many said they would recommend the program to other business owners,” said Sheryl Worthing, the village’s chief administrative officer.
Rio Tinto is now considering offering the program in other communities.