The City of Port Alberni’s economic development department will be putting $140,000 towards small businesses that are trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a council meeting on Monday, May 11, city council voted to redirect $90,000 from the economic development department’s 2020 marketing budget towards the small business sector. Council also voted to redirect $50,000 from the economic development department’s 2020 consulting service fees and contract services to support the small business sector.
“I’m proposing that most of the available allocation for the economic development function be invested in support of our small business sector, given all that has happened and will take place with the pandemic and the measures being adopted by senior governments, health authorities and others,” explained economic development manager Pat Deakin on Monday.
This is not new money, Mayor Sharie Minions emphasized, but money that is already in the budget being redirected to new initiatives.
Last year, these funds were invested in initiatives like Let’s Connect PA, Explore Port Alberni and the cruise ship festivals.
“We always think of economic development as trying to attract new business, but I think this covers [another] area of the economic development department, which is to monitor and oversee what we presently have in the community,” said Councillor Ron Paulson on Monday.
The economic development department has put together a plan with input from the local Emergency Operations Centre and Community Futures. The plan shows the City of Port Alberni partnering with Community Futures, putting $82,000 into a number of initiatives, including a loan program and consulting services for business owners. The city will also put $58,000 into its own initiatives, including grant leverage and promotions to encourage spending with local businesses.
The city is currently developing a “gift card site” that will act as a landing page, redirecting the public to purchase gift certificates from local businesses.
“There are people we know who have been reluctant to walk into a shop and pick up a gift certificate,” said Deakin. “It’s just one additional opportunity for people to find a way of supporting their business.”
Councillor Cindy Solda expressed concern about small mom-and-pop businesses that have not been able to apply for government funding so far.
“I would really like us to reach out to these businesses,” she said.
Minions said on Monday that she hopes the plan can be used as a “working document” that will adapt and evolve as needs change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.