There is no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year, but Chatham-Kent continues to see investment and growth across the entire community and the team at Economic Development and the Small Business Centre has been there every step of the way to help local businesses.
When COVID first began to have a local impact in March and April, our team reached out to over 200 critical businesses to ensure that they had the information, tools, and resources they needed to stay up and running. This included helping stores stay open safely for staff and customers, ensuring provincial and federal emergency funding was directed in our community to make a local impact, and working with businesses and manufacturers to keep necessary supplies and resources flowing.
As time progressed into the summer, the team connected with another 600 businesses across Chatham-Kent to understand their individual challenges and work with them to find solutions. This includes working with businesses to address cash flow, staffing, available funding, rent options, safety equipment, and other critical needs.
In addition to this work, primarily done in a private, one-on-one session with a business, we also launched a proactive communication outreach strategy to inform, engage, and empower businesses and residents across all of Chatham-Kent. We developed a website with the latest COVID business resources and tools, provided timely email newsletters to our thousands of subscribers, and launched a combination of traditional and social media ads to keep as many people as possible up-to-date.
Perhaps most importantly, when we asked for help, the community was there ready and willing to support. When the call went out to see who could help with 3D printing face shields for frontline health care workers, the response was nearly overwhelming – and quite frankly, awe-inspiring. We put a call out looking to develop a list of local vendors who supply PPE and even now we are still receiving responses (see list here). Most recently we asked you to support efforts to shop local, #ShopCK. This is one of the most biggest wins for our community because so many of you stepped forward and opened your hearts, and wallets, to support our local businesses. To everyone in Chatham-Kent, we thank you.
There are many other COVID-related activities we have been working on over the past several months, including:
- Wrapping up the first round of the Digital Main Street Grant program which saw 51 businesses each receive a $2,500 grant from the OBIAA. Another 94 businesses were also assisted with training, advice, guidance and mentorship as well as having 3D videos and photography catalogues created
- Developing, launching, and finalizing Chatham-Kent’s own Digital Improvement Grant program which saw another 24 successful applicants each receive $2500 to improve their digital footprint
- Administering the Chatham-Kent Small Business Recovery Grant Fund Program, which saw 70 eligible businesses receive a share of the $200,000 allocated by Council to assist with recovery efforts caused by the pandemic
While all of these things were happening, we also continued with our regular work. A few of the highlights include running the Starter Company Plus and Summer Company programs, helping developers and investors take advantage of the new Community Improvement Plan, and listening to and advocating on behalf of businesses for changes such as the outdoor patio bylaw to make Chatham-Kent an even easier place to do business.
In a time of crisis, when the world saw a unique type of silence through isolation, governments making decisions about what was essential, and daily routines thrown into massive upheaval, the volume for our team did not get quieter. If anything, there was an explosion of information met by a greater demand for answers. It is fair to say that the journey to where we are now has not been a simple path of point a to b. There have been twists and turns, hills and valleys, and most certainly a few unexpected roadblocks along the way. However, one thing that we promise today and into the future is that no matter where you are on your journey as a business owner, an aspiring entrepreneur, or even someone who has a spark of a business dream, our team is there with you every step of the way.
Watch for more information coming out soon as we approach Small Business Month and see how we can help your business by visiting www.investck.ca.