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Town reports on COVID-19 impacts

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Council took a look at the COVID-19 Business Impact Survey and Economic Recovery Strategy Report during the regular meeting of council on Sept. 1.

Hinton’s economic development officer, Scott Kovatch, explained that administration began assessing the potential impacts of the pandemic in early March.

“It became clear that COVID-19 would impact the local economy, specifically the tourism and hospitality sectors,” said Kovatch.

An initial Economic Recovery Support Response Strategy was developed and a COVID-19 Business Impact Survey was conducted. Recommendations were implemented immediately with some remaining in place.

Based on the survey in which they spoke to local businesses, they provided immediate recommendations including promoting health and safety protocols through established means such as the website and social media, encouraging local purchases and promoting local shopping, addressing concerns identified by local businesses and working with federal and provincial officials to promote the support available to them, and preparing for a second wave by monitoring efforts and presenting updates.

Long-term recommendations included creating a cross sector task force planning group to address challenges facing local businesses, and creating fiscal measures that include an emergency reserve fund.

Factors that impacted businesses during the pandemic included Provincial and Federal government restrictions, The Town of Hinton’s State of Local Emergency measures, and COVID-19 business supports developed by all levels of government including those generated by the Town of Hinton.

The Strategy employs clear communication, outreach and individual business case support, economic support during COVID-19, and post-COVID-19 preparation.

The strategy is meant to help businesses remain informed to maintain confidence, help businesses plan for recovery and resilience, assist in reducing immediate strain on local businesses, and mitigate the long-term economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Business Impact Survey spanned 90 days during April to June and involved reaching out to 100 local businesses. 

“The COVID-19 business survey summarized the local results and compared those results to the Economic Developers results from across the province. The survey has been shared with the local economic partners such as the Hinton Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures Yellowhead, and Alberta Labour and Immigration,” said Kovatch.

The comparison to the Economic Developers Association of Alberta data provides greater statistical accuracy based on the size of the sample. Once feedback has been received, recommendations will be generated and acted upon.

Once the province and Town of Hinton entered Phase-2 of the re-opening of the economy, a follow-up to the initial survey was conducted with a sample of seven local businesses in July.

Key findings from the initial COVID-19 business impact survey showed that the majority of businesses contacted for the survey are locally owned, are represented by physical location, had been in business 10 years or longer, and would only be able to manage current operating and business expenses for one year.