While small businesses in Hinton are doing well despite COVID-19, there is still a tremendous amount of support available.
Recovery is slow and businesses will feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for the next couple of years, said Nancy Robbins, general manager of Community Futures West Yellowhead.
It’s difficult to plan in unpredictable times, but Robbins said it’s important for businesses to stay on top of their finances, as well as knowing which government support programs are available to them, and that they take a break and make sure they’re taking care of themselves and their families.
“I would say 95 per cent of our businesses are using the federal relief programs. And I would encourage people to investigate them and see what works for them. If it means the difference between keeping the business going, I would highly recommend they check it out,” Robbins said.
Support programs are changing quickly, and the best thing businesses can do is call the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and explain their situation and challenges. Community Futures can also direct businesses to the best spot to go.
The wage subsidy has been extended as well as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
“We received the first round of the regional relief recovery fund about two months ago and out of that we have lent probably $1.4M out in the region. We are waiting for the second round, we don’t know what that’s going to look like or when the money is going to come,” said Robbins.
She encourages small businesses to look at the new regulations for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan first, and then start an application.
Community Futures, together with the Town of Hinton, the Chamber of Commerce, Alberta Labour and Immigration, the Mayor, and a few council members held a business walk where they visited roughly 70 businesses in Hinton to see how they were doing.
“It’s important to go to them to ask for what they need as opposed to making them come to us,” said Robbins.
The business walk was a great way to check on how businesses are doing and to see if anybody needed referrals or information.
Robbins found that businesses in Hinton are doing okay and that new businesses continue to start up.
“Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Hinton and businesses are doing okay. Really, we recommend everybody put a plan in place to get through the winter,” she said.
In certain situations, the pandemic has pushed businesses to explore other opportunities.
Businesses were forced to change their business model and a lot of them have been successful, according to Robbins.
“We need to be realistic going into Christmas that everybody is hurting this year, not only business owners, and maybe we won’t spend as much retail-wise. But the fact that a lot of businesses have gotten through the first lockdown and they’ve done well and are still open at the end of the summer, there’s a tremendous amount of positivity right now,” Robbins said.
While it’s not perfect, Robbins believes Hinton is in a good situation on a long road of recovery.
She added that it’s really interesting to see how people have transformed their spaces and to see the different strategies and measures they’ve put in place.
Alberta’s small businesses employ more than 530,000 Albertans and contribute about $100B into the economy each year, according to Martin Long, West Yellowhead MLA and parliamentary secretary for small business and tourism.
“Alberta’s economy depends on small businesses. They work hard, and through Alberta’s Recovery Plan and initiatives like our efforts to reduce red tape for business, the Investment and Growth Strategy, and our SME Relaunch grant, Alberta’s government is committed to working just as hard to support them,” he said.
Long encourages Albertans to support local businesses that continue to play a key role in Alberta’s economy throughout recovery.
This year, the Hinton Chamber is unable to host the Annual Business Awards Gala, and instead, for Small Business Week from Oct. 18 to Oct. 24 they are sharing nominations and stories submitted.
Throughout Small Business Week, a business will be showcased in communities across West Yellowhead. Community Futures will feature a business that has done a great job despite the pandemic restrictions through a Facebook Live event.
“I think there’s a tremendous amount of success stories of people that have really embraced change and adapted their business model and are still reaching their clients and customers but have changed the way that they do it,” Robbins said.
In Hinton, The Old Grind was showcased on Oct. 21, because of the way they transformed their space, putting necessary safety measures in place, while still making their customers feel welcome and comfortable.
Businesses should make sure they have a good plan in place, working on their cash flow, and asking for help if it’s needed, Robbins said.
Community Futures provides services for free and businesses can call to ask questions, book an appointment or email them.
“A plan, realizing it will probably change about a hundred times, but it helps people feel a sense of control over their situation,” Robbins said.
The CRA hired extra staff during the pandemic to help businesses get the proper support.
Besides the support programs, Robbins added that it’s important businesses work with their bookkeeper to understand the future implications of these support programs.
Any individuals taking advantage of CERB benefits should be aware and prepared for tax time as well, she said.
“It’s really important to be aware of the changes those programs can make on your financial situation in the long term,” Robbins said.
An accountant or bookkeeper can help make sure a business or individual has everything covered.
Community Futures has been very busy throughout the pandemic but tries their best to help people as quickly as possible.
There are roughly 4,000 businesses in the area covered by Community Futures and they deal mostly with startups.
In Hinton, there are roughly 750 registered businesses of every size that Community Futures works with.
As things continue to change with support programs, individuals and businesses can call 1-800-O-CANADA to talk to someone about what support is available for them.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) small business recovery dashboard for Alberta showed some positive indications as well for October.
According to the CFIB, 71 per cent of Alberta businesses are fully open compared to 65 per cent last month. Forty-two per cent of Alberta businesses are fully staffed, compared to only 33 per cent last month. The CFIB also says 24 per cent of Alberta businesses are making normal sales, compared to 18 per cent last year.
Small Business Week is running Oct. 19 – 24 and the CFIB says that recognizing the importance of small businesses in a community is critical.
“This year, the stakes are much higher—small businesses have been pummelled by months of closures and restrictions, many have had to lay off valued staff, and sales remain dangerously low. They need our support now more than ever,” said Laura Jones, CFIB executive vice president.