The only thing that’s certain is uncertainty.
That was the message from administration as they presented their plan to help businesses recover after the devastating wildfire in Fort McMurray. The five-year, three-phase plan was endorsed unanimously by council Wednesday afternoon in Edmonton.
The first phase of the plan involves emergency funding for businesses to help them survive, with the money coming from the Canadian Red Cross and various levels of government. There will also be a welcome centre set up to help businesses connect with the resources they need, as well as a phone hotline.
Phase 1 also has the option for a “recovery trade show,” though Acting Director of Economic Development Keith Smith said this could take the form of workshops for businesses.
Phase 2 and 3 are a little more vague, involving the review of how phase 1 has gone and assessing the needs of businesses moving forward. Smith called the plan a “fluid, living document.”
The business plan will be looking to prevent a haemorrhaging of small businesses like what was experienced after the High River floods of 2013. Statistics brought up by UDI suggest that 43% of affected businesses didn’t re-open after the flood, and out of the 57% that did one-third closed their doors within a short period of time.
Several local business leaders in attendance voiced their support for the program, including UDI Wood Buffalo and H. Wilson Industries’ Wes Holodniuk, Chamber of Commerce Chair Bryce Kumka, and Fort McMurray Airport CEO Scott Clements. They, along with several others, pledged their services for helping in the rebuild. The support was not lost on council.
“We’re feeling the strength of the community at our backs,” Councillor Allan Vinni said. “It’s going to be a helluva thing to rebuild, but we’ll get it done together.”