The Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s (TNRD) economic recovery manager, Colin O’Leary, says that he is available to help area businesses, First Nations businesses, and non-profit groups that suffered economically because of this summer’s wildfires. “I’m here to help everything that is not residential, from an economic and business standpoint,” he says.
To that end, a series of public meetings has been scheduled in Cache Creek and Ashcroft to allow business owners to learn more about what services are available; and O’Leary encourages local business owners, First Nations business owners, and representatives from non-profit organizations to come to the meetings to provide feedback and get information.
The project will focus on data and information gathering, then making recommendations about how best to help businesses and organizations.
Phase one includes a survey for business owners to take, engaging with communities, and collecting information. “We need to see how businesses have been impacted.”
Phase two will look at all of the data and try to quantify the economic loss. “That will be a best guess,” admits O’Leary. “We’re very clear about that. But even a ballpark figure will be useful to us.
“And we’ll be doing a gap analysis between what’s out there and what’s needed. We’ll compare where businesses say they need help and what programs are there. Is the gap real or perceived? Sometimes people have a hard time navigating the system, and there may be an existing program to help them. If it’s there to help the business community we’ll make them aware of it.”
The third phase will be to make recommendations where real gaps are identified. “We’ll be looking at the recovery program going forward. There’s a possibility that the TNRD will fill some gaps, and maybe it will be other groups. We’ll identify what the needs are, and make plans accordingly.”
O’Leary says that he’d like all affected businesses in the area to fill out the survey. “Go to www.tnrd.ca/recovery, which has information about the community sessions and a link to the survey.”
There will be community sessions for business owners and affected organizations in Ashcroft (December 6 and 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Community Hall) and Cache Creek (December 7 and 21, 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at the Community Hall). O’Leary says that the sessions on December 6 and 7 will be facilitated information sessions. “We’ll be talking about why we’re there, what we’re doing, and what we hope to accomplish. We’re looking for active participation.”
The meetings on December 20 and 21 will report on the results gathered. “We’ll also be bringing with us different support agencies that are most in demand by the business community, to talk about what they can offer,” says O’Leary. “Representatives will be able to speak about their programs.
“We’re going to try to collaborate with everyone, and make sure we’re not filling a need that’s already being met by someone. We don’t want to duplicate services.” He also notes that Clinton has hired its own recovery manager, Daniela Dyck, who will be available to help business owners in that community (see story on page 3).
O’Leary has spent the last 10 years in business support and economic development. “This [economic recovery program] aligns with my expertise. I’m a firm believer that this is the way to do it: from the ground up, not from the top down. We need to go out and talk to businesses, and ask directly what the best things are that we can do to assist with economic recovery.”
O’Leary can be reached by email at email@example.com.