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Lakeland businesses getting a helping hand through regional committee

The Business Resiliency Committee is aiming to assist local businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Robynne Henry.

LAKELAND – Businesses in the Lakeland are getting a helping hand from the newly-formed Business Resiliency Committee (BRC).

The BRC was created to help local small businesses navigate the current economic climate.

“It’s a regional idea that was kind of brought forth by our local chambers and Community Futures Lakeland on how we can come together to better assist the business community through COVID-19, all its impacts, and to really start looking forward to managing our economic future and well-being,” detailed Serina Parsons, executive director of the Bonnyville and District Chamber of Commerce.

Sherri Buckle, executive director of the Cold Lake Regional Chamber Commerce, said, “Major stakeholders in the region came together because a lot of the challenges that each community business is facing are really the challenges of the region. It made sense for us to work together as a cohesive group.”

Along with local chambers, there are also representatives from the Town and MD of Bonnyville councils as well as the City of Cold Lake council. The parties began meeting at the beginning of May to see what could be done to help local business owners with attaining provincial and federal programming.

Lisa Ford, general manager of Community Futures Lakeland, stressed the importance of working collaboratively during this time.

“We’re going to sink or swim together. So really, if the businesses are struggling, we’re all struggling. Our job at Community Futures is business support services, so in order for us to get the services out to the people who need us the most, we can cover a larger area if we all work together.”

With the goal of supporting businesses in mind, a regional voucher program was launched by the BRC at the beginning of June.

The group compiled a list of local companies that have the ability and resources to help struggling businesses get access to the government programs they need and that can assist business owners in adjusting to the current market.

“We wanted to be the boots on the ground and help the actual businesses that are struggling,” Ford stated, adding they gathered feedback to see the areas people were struggling with when developing the voucher initiative.

“One of them was right now nobody has any cash flow in the small businesses but they also, right now, need help. Especially in COVID-19, when everybody was forced home and they have to pivot their business. In order to pivot, they needed help if they needed social media or they had to get their businesses online if they wanted to sell their product online. This isn’t really something in the rural communities they were doing before, and we wanted to offer support to them.”

Parsons stressed the program isn’t about “reinventing the wheel.”

“We heard about other communities that were doing some more things and we thought ‘you know what? We need this and we need to give them to our businesses and how can we do that?’ Based on these conversations, we all came together and did it,” she continued.

Business owners interested in being part of the regional voucher program can reach out to their local chambers or call Community Futures Lakeland at 780-826-3858.

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle

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