Only one area business came to a public meeting for business recovery held in Ashcroft on December 6. Nine businesses were represented at two meetings in Cache Creek on December 7.
However, Colin O’Leary—who was recently appointed as the economic recovery manager for businesses in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD)—is worried that area businesses affected by this summer’s wildfires will not provide enough feedback for him to effectively lobby for assistance.
“I know businesses need help,” says O’Leary. “But if there’s no response, we’ll have nothing to report. It will be a case of ‘We went out and made a huge effort to help, but no one talked to us, so I guess they don’t need help.’
“I know a lot of businesses are done with community sessions and want to move on with their lives. But we have to have them complete an online survey. Business owners can take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2017wildfires.
“The survey only takes five minutes to fill out, but you can put as much detail as you want.”
O’Leary says businesses that came to the public meetings “really got it and enjoyed it. We want to hear from the business community about what their needs are. We’re hearing that what we need is advertising, marketing, re-foresting, interest-free loans. These are excellent ideas, and very doable. But if not enough people fill out the survey, it won’t be heard.”
O’Leary will take the findings from the public meetings and the surveys to the TNRD and the province. All businesses and non-profit organizations affected by the wildfires can take the survey, which needs to be completed by December 15.
“We have to put the voice forward about what’s needed,” says O’Leary. “We want to see specific needs. If multiple businesses put forward the same need, they’ll probably get it. There is still a lot of money in the coffers from the province.”
When asked if it’s a case of “use it or lose it”, O’Leary agrees. “It’s better to hear from affected businesses, than to have some politician in Victoria decide what the businesses in Ashcroft and Cache Creek need. The chance of them getting it right is very slim.”
A follow-up series of meetings with the local business communities will take place in Ashcroft at 6 p.m. on December 20 and Cache Creek at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on December 21. O’Leary can be contacted by interested businesses at email@example.com.