Just eight days after Northern Development adjusted the former Forestry Affected Business Consulting Rebate program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Opa Sushi successfully applied to the new Small Business Recovery (SBR) Consulting Rebate program on April 16, 2020.
Seeking a grant to assist with the costs of hiring a professional consultant to help guide the sushi restaurant through the drastically changing business landscape, Opa Sushi was approved for a $16,320 rebate for the $19,200 consulting project.
“The consultant supported us through a very tough time in the entire restaurant industry,” said Kristi Farrell, president, Opa Sushi. “We were able to accomplish an incredible amount of work for the business in a very volatile time. The strategic work we did helped ensure Opa Sushi continued to thrive during the pandemic and after.”
Completed over the course of one year, the consultant provided guidance and support for the implementation of an inventory management system, leadership development and recruitment, training sales and marketing initiatives. As a result, Opa Sushi realized increased average guest checks for both dine-in and take-out. They also improved the cost of goods by three per cent and improved staff retention.
The SBR Consulting Rebate continues to be available to businesses in a variety of industries, including hospitality, retail, energy and manufacturing. Eligible businesses can access a rebate of up to 85 per cent, to a maximum of $25,000, for the cost of hiring a consultant to assist with business efforts.
In June 2021, McBride & District Public Library Association (MDPLA) was approved for a $28,952 Community Places grant to support the transformation of an empty lot into a community garden. The ambitious project contains multiple phases, with the first including the creation of an outdoor meeting room pergola area, fenced children’s area, landscaping and accessible walkways.
“We’re grateful that we were able to create a beautiful multi-purpose space out of an unused plot of land in McBride to benefit our entire community,” said Abi Ward, library director, MDPLA. “Beyond beautifying the area, this project has also created year-round learning opportunities for patrons, encouraging people of all ages to be curious about plants, wildlife and the changing seasons.”
The new community garden and outdoor gathering space is the only green space at the north end of McBride where residents and visitors can sit or play outside on public property.
“Green spaces and community gardens are known to increase property values and resident/visitor spending, while also helping boost public health and wellness,” said Ward. “Parks and open spaces also create social equity, as a free place for people of all generations to enjoy. It is our belief that a community space such as this, in close proximity to the elementary school, seniors’ housing complex, hospital and local businesses will provide a safe, green gathering space for all to enjoy.”
The new space also provides library staff with an option to expand into offering outdoor programs, increasing visits to the library and patron participation.
The $54,522 project received $28,952 from Northern Development through the Community Places funding program. Introduced in September 2020, the Community Places program supports the creation, restoration or enhancement of community spaces that will improve amenities and enhance overall quality of life.
On December 14, 2017, the West Fraser Aquatic Centre was bustling with activity as people celebrated the grand reopening of the Sam Ketcham Pool in the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex. The $14.1 million improvement project demonstrates a tangible investment into the physical and mental well-being of residents and serves as a tool for attracting and retaining residents.
The celebration was especially meaningful as it occurred five months after the Williams Lake was evacuated due to the devastating wildfires of 2017.
“The pool had been closed since February and undergoing construction since April 2016,” said Darron Campbell, manager of community services, Cariboo Regional District, after the facility reopened. “We were very anxious to have it back open for the public. Not only was it open to help welcome people back home immediately after the evacuation, but also served as a comfortable place to go when the smoke in the community was really bad for the weeks to come.”
People flocked to the pool, with use increasing by nearly 50 per cent in its first year after the renovations.
The project also provided significant benefit to the local economy, with over $6.5 million in construction contracts being awarded to local contractors and suppliers. The work resulted in a new fitness centre, lap tank, swirl pool, leisure pool and steam room.
Northern Development invested $250,000 through its Economic Diversification Infrastructure (EDI) funding program to support the development of a quality recreation facility in Williams Lake. The EDI funding program was retired in 2020. Under new funding programs introduced in 2020, this same project would have been eligible for funding through the Recreation Infrastructure program.
The Bulkley Valley Exhibition (BVX) annually attracts 24,000 people through its gates on the Smithers Fairgrounds. Visitors enjoy live entertainment, 4-H showings, amusement rides, food, vendors and camaraderie all while celebrating agriculture in the valley.
With approximately 70 per cent of attendees coming from outside Smithers, the fair positively impacts the local economy by bringing people to local accommodations, restaurants, shops and other businesses.
The Bulkley Valley Agricultural and Industrial Association (BVAIA) is responsible for hosting the event year after year. With a core group of 25 paid staff for the event, they rely on 450 volunteers and numerous sponsors to create a family-friendly and enjoyable multi-day spectacle.
Since 2016, BVAIA has successfully applied to Northern Development’s Fabulous Festivals and Events funding program six times. The $5,000 grant helps them raise awareness of the event through television and media advertisements, posters and other marketing materials.
2021 was the last year they received a grant for the exhibition and they have been approved for a $5,000 grant for the 2023 edition.
“Organizing and hosting the Bulkley Valley Exhibition in 2021 was both an unusual challenge and extraordinarily rewarding opportunity,” said Jan McLary, general manager, BVAIA. “We knew that our community and region were desiring opportunities for social interaction and a sense of normalcy. Our main takeaway was how appreciative the public was to have an event to attend. We were thanked more for putting on the fair than we have ever been!”
The 2023 BVX will be held at the Smithers Fairgrounds August 24-27.
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