COVID impact on HP businesses planned in study

The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on businesses in High Prairie is part of a project proposed by Community Futures – Lesser Slave Lake Region. Some businesses in downtown High Prairie have closed or relocated as home-based businesses, leaving many commercial spaces vacant.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Economic impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on businesses in the Town of High Prairie may be examined in a regional study.

At its regular meeting July 28, town council approved a request from Community Futures (CF) – Lesser Slave Lake and Yellowhead East regions to partner in a project in a labour market study for a cost of $750 for the town.

“If we can help our businesses and community, it would be money well spent,” Mayor Brian Panasiuk says.

“It will provide workshops to help employees and employers.”

The recommendation was presented by town CAO Brian Martinson.

“The grant will fund a contractor to complete a complete analysis on the impacts that COVID-19 has had on the workforce and the labour market in the region,” Martinson says.

Municipalities were invited to participate in the Community Futures COVID-19 Business Viability and Sustainability and Strategic Pivoting Project, states a letter from Josh Friesen, executive director of Community Futures, Lesser Slave Lake Region.

Workshops will promote skills in deep and positive thinking to achieve positive results and skills and tools that can be used to increase resilience opportunities, states an information sheet from Community Futures.

“To assist our businesses in the region, we are applying for a (CF) Rural Opportunities Grant that will give us the ability to provide vital workshops specifically designed to assist our business owners with the ability to maintain, bounce back or expand business under the face of such serious economic time,” Friesen says.

“Final data gathered, reported outcomes and recommended strategies will be available to each partners as we work together in our co-ordinated efforts to create strategic succession plans that will help with workforce attraction, retention, training and planning in our recovery efforts from COVID-19.”

The Yellowhead East and Lesser Slave Lake regions are leading the project.

Friesen says the project would include “deep exploration” into the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to business and labour force trends and make recommendations for businesses and labour force retention strategies.

Project consultants proposed to provide a COVID-19 Economic Impact Assessment and identify labour market needs and challenges and present recommendations to support the findings.

“The report would identify long-term challenges, anticipated labour force trends due to COVID-19 and strategies to support employees and employers in the long term,” Friesen says.

Panasiuk, Councillor Debbie Rose, Councillor Michael Long and Councillor Arlen Quartly voted in favour.

“This is a good and small way to work with our businesses,” Rose says.

She and Long say Community Futures is a good partner with the town.

“We don’t know the (extensive) impact of COVID-19 on businesses,” Long says.

Councillor Judy Stenhouse, Councillor Donna Deynaka and Councillor Brian Gilroy voted against.

“I don’t think it’s money well spent,” Stenhouse says.

“Do we need a study?

“We just have to look around at our businesses.”

Deynaka also questions the value of the project.

“Do we really need to have a study to see the impact?” says Deynaka, who wants to see a budget for the project before she supports the project.

As a partner in the project, the town agrees to send a letter of support to the grant application and assist in promoting workshops and indentifying business owners who would benefit from the workshops and study.

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