To respond to the drastically changing needs of the region during 2020, Northern Development introduced or adjusted funding programs and developed a new partnership with Support Local BC to support businesses during the evolving challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 8, the Trust’s business development team unveiled the new Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate (SBR) – an adjustment to the Forestry Affected Business Consulting Rebate that had been introduced the previous year. SBR is designed to support small and medium sized businesses that are impacted by the economic downturn. Through the program, businesses in a broad range of industries can apply for rebates of up to 85 per cent, to a maximum of $25,000, of an eligible project’s budget. One focus of the funding program is supporting businesses as they transition to e-commerce platforms or other modes of operation during social and physical distancing restrictions. SBR also supports operational and systems improvements and business repositioning for a long-term return to profitability.
Less than three weeks later, Northern Development celebrated its partnership with Support Local BC to promote the online purchase of gift cards from Love Northern BC businesses. This partnership means that businesses can join the online platform at no cost, and will receive the full value of the gift cards purchased – no processing fees.
“Success can be measured in many ways but being able to endure the current state of the COVID-19 world has to be considered a success in itself,” said Rob Gruber, owner, Good Times Games in Prince Rupert. “Support Local BC has been vital for us. Customers purchasing gift certificates for future use not only shows their trust in our commitment to make it through this, but their support also acts as encouragement for all of us at Good Times, telling us we are appreciated, special and a vital component to the business community here.”
On May 8, Northern Development announced that it had developed a new program to provide business support services for the region. The Regional Business Liaison (RBL) funding program provides support to Community Futures Development Corporations, Chambers of Commerce, local governments and community economic development entities for hiring local talent to provide support for small and medium businesses in the region. The Trust funds 100 per cent of eligible expenses up to $75,000. On June 18, funding was approved for 11 RBL positions – in total, eight Community Futures, two Chambers of Commerce and one regional district received funding to hire an RBL to serve their region.
“NDIT’s funding for the RBL position is a powerful springboard for facilitating dialogues that will enhance communication, while identifying service gaps and how to fill them,” said Susan Stearns, general manager, Community Futures Fraser Fort George. “It will allow businesses to access resources to redesign their businesses and will be a primary conduit for strengthening and diversifying economic recovery across the North.”
In the fall, the Connecting British Columbia program opened a short-term intake for funding applications that can be implemented immediately and completed prior to October 31, 2021. Northern Development administers the Connecting British Columbia program on behalf of the Province of British Columbia. This Economic Recovery Intake focuses on projects that expand connectivity in rural and Indigenous communities and along rural highway segments. This program is part of B.C.’s Economic Recovery Plan.
In 2021, the Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate program will continue, as will Northern Development’s partnership with Support Local BC. The Regional Business Liaison program will continue to support the North as the liaisons continue their year-long work in the region. The Economic Recovery Intake, offered through the Connecting British Columbia program, aims to have all funds allocated by March 31, 2021 and for projects to be completed by October 31, 2021.