Rio Tinto to invest $11,000 for a Business Accelerator Program in Burns Lake

The pilot program aims to help small businesses set up a digital footprint

Up to 25 local businesses will be selected to participate in order to help businesses make the transition to a digital presence. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

Rio Tinto is planning to launch a Business Accelerator Program developed by the Village of Burns Lake, to help small businesses transition their business online, keeping in mind long-term success for the business.

The impact of Covid, though not obvious, has been far-reaching as proved by the several surveys the village conducted over the last few weeks. According the surveys, business in Burns Lake have seen a decrease in their sales due to what they believe to be a rise in online shopping during the pandemic. According to the village, these businesses going online is an alternative that could help them stay afloat and in competition.

”The program was designed and proposed by EDO Lorie Watson from the Village of Burns Lake. It is their program and they are doing it for their business community in Burns Lake. Rio Tinto is supporting the program because we see great benefit in it for local businesses and Rio Tinto would also like to share it with other communities where we operate,” said a representative for Rio Tinto

In order to help businesses make this transition to a digital presence, the Village of Burns Lake developed this program with support from Rio Tinto. According to the proposed program, up to 25 local businesses will be selected to participate. A village-hired consultant will then work one-on-one with the each business to provide them with business websites, train the business owners on how to maintain and increase the online presence, setup e-commerce options for businesses, provide technical support and help the business in building a digital footprint to help them long-term in their business goals.

“The program will provide local businesses with the tools they need to transition their business online. This may mean teaching business owners how to add a website, add online shopping or simply just learn how to use social media more effectively. Each business has different needs and the program is designed to meet the individual needs of the business owner,” said Sheryl Worthing, the chief administrative officer (CAO) for the village.

In August, the village conducted a survey of local businesses to find out their digital presence and interest in moving towards e-commerce. 70 per cent of the participants didn’t have a website and of those who did have a website only 30 per cent of those updated their information regularly. Over 90 per cent of those surveyed were found to be using Facebook for reaching people. The top challenges that the business owners felt in going digital was lack of knowledge, lack of money and lack of time. Of the surveyed participants, over 75 per cent indicated their interest in being a part of a digital learning program.

During the Sept. 1 council meeting, the village approved up to $10,000 to support the business accelerator program in addition to Rio Tinto’s $11,000. This business accelerator program will be treated as a pilot program and if successful, Rio Tinto would be implementing this program in other communities.

“The program will go ahead if we have interest from the local business community. Applicants will have to have a valid Village of Burns Lake Business Licence,” said Worthing.

The eligibility and selection for the program will be determined by the Village of Burns Lake and the partnership will include both non-Indigenous and Indigenous businesses.

”This program aims to help businesses in the Lakes District to reach and be seen by anyone anywhere and support their recovery from COVID-19 impacts. Rio Tinto is happy to be a partner in the recovery of local businesses and the community of Burns Lake and to support new ways of doing business,” said Kevin Dobbin, BC Communities and Communications manager, Rio Tinto BC Works.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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