The Bashaw and District Chamber of Commerce held a brainstorming session with members and elected officials to try to come up with some ideas on how to help businesses who are closed, or partially closed, due to COVID-19.
On the call were chamber president Dustin Hemingson and secretary Peter Graham, along with Town of Bashaw CAO Theresa Fuller, as well as MLA Jackie Lovely and MP Damien Kurek and Noble Fox Mexican restaurant owners Carlos and Karen Siguenza, Anjah Howard, manager of planning and economic development for Camrose County and Georgina Gaudet, co-owner of the Bashaw Pharmacy.
“As a pharmacy, we’ve been able to be open, but I’m looking for ideas how to support other businesses in our community that haven’t been,” said Gaudet.
“This brainstorming session seemed like a really good idea, to hear some other people’s points of view and see what we can come up with collectively,” said Hemingson.
“If you’re asking small business owners what they need right now, what we need now is monetary help,” said Carlos.
“All these programs are fine and dandy but it takes a month to get something, or two months. You get lost in this red tape … and by the that time, people are shutting down their businesses for good.”
The Siguenzas reduced their hours to three days a week during COVID-19 and are now using what is left of their savings.
As a way to bring in some more income, the Noble Fox is now delivering liquor as well.
“Don’t make us wait two months to get a loan, because in two months, it’s probably too late. Fight for us,” he said.
Adjustments have been made to the wage subsidy and emergency bank account over time and are still evolving, says Kurek, adding that if there is a program that doesn’t quite fit, to please reach out to his office.
“Every circumstance is different and we’ve been able to work with small business owners to make adjustments on the applications, or whatever (the issue) is, to make sure folks can get the resources they need to get through,” he said.
“If there are programs that are either working or not working, please keep me posted.”
Kurek added that if the person has called the wrong office, and is looking for help with a provincial rather than a federal support, they will sort you out, and vice versa with Lovely’s office.
Lovely answered that she welcomes business owners letting her know where the challenges lay so she can relate it to the minister.
The UCP’s will be making an announcement soon regarding support for sole proprietors of businesses, according to Lovely.
Camrose County has a page on their website with business resources, including webinars and workshops, and links to grant information. It can be viewed at county.camrose.ab.ca/content/business-resources.
“It may be a useful tool,” said Howard.
“The county doesn’t have any specific programs but we’re trying to be a clearinghouse so people know that they can find all of the programs on our website in one spot instead of spending hours and hours the business owners don’t have trying to find stuff.”
Fuller added that the town has been sharing resources on its Facebook page and the town’s website has an economic development button where resources can be accessed such as templates for writing a business plan.
The town will also bring forward a red tape reduction initiative at its next council meeting that aims to support local businesses.
“We are seeking input from business owners as to what they would like to see for support and tools,” said Fuller.
She added the Town of Bashaw doesn’t currently have a business license bylaw, so there is no depository of all the businesses in the area. Contact information is collected for tax purposes only at this time.
As such, the town can only add businesses’ information to their website by request.
If you have feedback you’d like to give regarding a town business licence bylaw, or any business ideas you would like to see the town support, you can contact the town office by phone, or email Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org.