Northern Development Initiative Trust CEO Joel McKay. Photo submitted

Northern Development Initiative Trust offers rebate for businesses affected by mill closures, curtailments

Small and medium-sized businesses can apply for Forestry Affected Business Consulting Rebate

Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) announced this week that it will now offer a consulting rebate to small and medium-sized businesses in its service region that may be affected by permanent mill closures or curtailments.

The Forestry Affected Business (FAB) Consulting Rebate will reimburse small and medium-sized businesses for contracted consulting services. A rebate of up to 75 per cent of the consulting project costs, up to a maximum of $15,000, can be recovered for the cost of hiring a consultant to assist with business efforts.

“The Trust is very aware of the potential economic impacts mill closures and curtailments may have on communities and businesses in our service region,” NDIT CEO Joel McKay said in a press release. “This program seeks to help offset those impacts and sustain our communities during this difficult time.”

This new program is an offshoot of the Competitiveness Consulting Rebate program, which offers rebates to businesses in the industrial supply and services sector. FAB targets industries outside of that sector, such as retail, accommodations and agriculture.

This program is designed to help businesses recover the costs of third-party consulting projects. These projects must focus on ways to sustain businesses during the economic downturn in the forestry industry. Eligible projects can include business planning and management, market development, quality and safety management, cash flow and financial management, and business coaching, to name a few.

“The program is designed to provide businesses that are impacted by the mill closures and curtailments with a grant that can offset the costs of bringing in an expert to help them re-position their business for growth or just to get through the tough time,” McKay explained in a follow-up phone interview. “If you’re a small or medium enterprise — whether you’re a logging contractor or maybe you’re a service or retail sector business in Quesnel that’s impacted by these closures — often what you want to do to survive the storm is bring in somebody to help make your business more efficient or re-position you for growth to get other contracts.

“That might mean that you hire somebody who can help you come up with a financial management plan or implement an accounting system, or perhaps it’s a marketing plan, or perhaps it’s a type of certification you need to re-position away from forestry and look at supporting oil and gas or mining or whatever it might be. But often, for the small and medium enterprises, it’s cost-prohibitive to hire that consultant — and it’s hard to find the right consultant to do it.”

McKay says NDIT can also support businesses by helping them find the right consultant.

Eligible industries include retail, retail services, tourism operators, hospitality, accommodations, agriculture/ranching, innovation/technology, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, resource processing (forestry, mining, energy) and industrial supply chain (services and suppliers).

Eligible businesses include small and medium-sized businesses affected by mill closures and curtailments in Northern Development’s service region; incorporated businesses or sole proprietorships that have been established for three or more years with more than $30,000 in annual revenues; operating businesses with revenue; businesses with less than 500 employees; businesses with annual revenues of less than $100 million; First Nations businesses in eligible industries; and First Nations development corporations.

NDIT has an annual funding envelope budget for this new rebate program, and businesses can apply at any time, explained McKay.

“There’s still quite a bit available, so it’s basically available on an ongoing basis,” he said. “If we happen to run out of the money this year, there will be money again in January.

“Our thinking is a lot of the businesses that are impacted by that downturn in forestry may not feel it for five or six months, so our intention is to keep the program running for quite a while to make sure those who maybe have support now or are not feeling it yet but will next year, will continue to have a program they can access to help them out.”

For more information about eligibility for the FAB and how to apply, visit northerndevelopment.bc.ca.

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