In the fall, the provincial government announced the City of Quesnel would receive $100,000 to provide support to businesses and workers impacted by the Tolko mill closure, and at its Jan. 7 meeting, council heard an update about this funding.
The money, which has now been released, comes to the City through a Community Support Grant, which was made available to communities with mill closures.
“We’re working right now with Community Futures and the Chamber of Commerce to develop a business survey, similar to what was done after the wildfires, to talk to businesses about how they’re really being impacted and what their needs are so we can really be responsive to their needs with potentially new training and resources and supports,” Amy Reid, the City’s manager of economic development and tourism, told council. “We could also be connecting businesses with existing resources or ensuring that businesses are aware of some of the bid opportunities for upcoming capital projects like Public Works, the hospital or school, those projects that are coming up in the community, and making sure that our local businesses are as connected as possible. We tried to make it something that was forward-looking and helping people to transition, rather than just reacting.”
Reid told council part of the City’s economic development transition plan is to do a full business retention and expansion survey with the business community, and they haven’t done that yet, so that will be part of it. Part of the survey will be determining the specific needs of businesses and how they can best use the Community Support Grant funding going forward, she says.
Mayor Bob Simpson explained this $100,000 comes out of the repurposing that the government announced in September to provide funding for forest sector re-adjustment. The government announced that communities that had mill closures would be automatically eligible for $100,000, but this is also the structural change in the provincial government’s Rural Dividend program, he told council.
“We had a $100,000 application into the Rural Dividend, and it died as a result of Rural Dividend dollars going into this new forestry sector adjustment program; they then came back to us and said ‘you’re an eligible community for $100,000,’ and then tried to tell us how we would spend that money,” said Simpson. “The economic development officer and I had to spend some time on the phone and then Amy had to spend some more time with them to try to shape something that fits our transition survey and wasn’t kind of foisted on us so they could do what they wanted to do with the money. It is a release of those funds into our community, and I think for good purpose. I think Amy’s done a good job of making sure it’s angled in the right direction to continue our transition strategy.”