Task force helping High River businesses
Flood 2013: Local groups combine resources to address issues
By: John Barlow
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 02, 2013 08:58 am
A partnership of community organizations is working to help businesses impacted by the flood get back up on their feet.
In the wake of the June flood, which devastated communities in southern Alberta, numerous businesses, mainly in High River, were decimated and many owners did not know where to turn for help.
Small businesses are the heartbeat of rural communities and a collection of business support groups as well as a post-secondary institution banded together to ensure business owners had somewhere to turn for help.
In July the High River Business Renewal Task Force was established and it includes Community Futures Highwood, McBride Career Group, Bow Valley College, legal aid and the Town of High River’s Business and Tourism Development department.
Angie Groeneveld, High River’s business recovery officer, said the task force is an excellent opportunity for business owners to find the information they need.
“This is people working together and combining their resources,” said Groeneveld. “People are really looking for answers about flood mitigation, financial support and how they can rebuild,” she said. “Whatever resources we have in the region and all have to work together to rebuild.”
The business renewal task force offers businesses owners a variety of assistance including: financial support (accessing loans, interest relief and disaster relief); workforce support (help for employers and employees, job postings, career coaching, accessing employment insurance); workforce training; insurance support; free legal consultation; and free business support to help with marketing strategies and creating cash flow.
Dayna Dickens, of High River’s Business and Tourism Development department, is the program co-ordinator and she said the task force was initiated just after the flood to get a pulse of the business community and to see what supports and programs were needed to help rejuvenate the stores and shops.
“We had to get a sense of where the businesses were and what their needs were,” she said. “There was a lot of anxiety and stress so we created the task force to handle that and specify the issues facing the businesses.”
Dickens said they started researching answers, surveyed the local businesses and developed solutions such as the temporary business park currently under construction downtown High River.
“There are so many questions out there, not just from the business owner, but from the whole community,” said Dickens. “We recognize how many voices are out there and people can be overwhelmed. We want to make sure nothing falls through the cracks and work with the business leaders to make sure business owners find what they need.”
Dickens also stated the importance of building and maintaining confidence in High River’s business community.
Corrine Finnie of Bow Valley College said the group as met on a regular basis and response from local business owners has been positive.
She said they key has been the task force’s ability to combine their knowledge, provide a one-stop shop to business owners, find the answers they need and react to the needs of the business community.
“We are more powerful if our resources go where they need to go,” said Finnie.
She added the business task force recognized getting High River’s businesses back up and running was critical to the survival of the community and as businesses re-opened it was a positive indication there was a commitment from the business community to rebuild High River.
“Every businesses that opens shows people there are economic drivers in place and they are driving this town forward,” said Finnie. “Every businesses that opens shows our resiliency and the ability to move forward. It is something positive.”
High River business owners were encouraged to complete a survey indicating their most significant concerns and top priorities. The link to the survey is http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/flood_2013_high_river_business_recovery_survey
In addition information on the renewal task force and the services it provides is available on the Town of High River website at http://www.highriver.ca/index.php/en/business/doing-business-in-high-river#high-river-business-supports
For more information on the High River Business Renewal Task Force contact Dayna Dickens, Town of High River Business & Tourism Development, 403-603-3536.