Businesses get helping hand
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 08:23 am
Diamond Valley merchants are gaining a sense of hope for the future with the help of some unexpected friends.
The Economic Disaster Recovery Project (EDRP) is coming to the aid of 10 communities impacted by last June’s flood across southern Alberta, offering strategies to help them restore economic stability.
Representatives with the EDRP, a partnership of the Economic Developers of Alberta, Economic Development Association of British Columbia and International Economic Development Council, met with councillors, economic development committees, the Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce and community groups in Black Diamond and Turner Valley last week to gauge how the flood impacted the two communities.
Blue Rock Gallery owner Karen Gimbel, who attended a focus session with the EDRP in Black Diamond on Dec. 5, said it’s important the community comes together to support the business owners.
“I’m interested from a community perspective to just learn how we can work better together, all of us who have been impacted, to support each other,” he said.
Gimbel said it’s beneficial having the perspective of an outside organization.
“They are outside of the blast radius of the flood,” she said. “For those of us who are here it’s really hard to not be traumatized. If we are all traumatized we can’t function in a creative way.”
Country Food Mart Ag Foods owner Mark Muller said he feels a sense of hope for Black Diamond businesses. Although merchants were hit hard last summer, particularly when the Black Diamond bridge was inaccessible for three weeks, he is confident business will be back to normal this summer.
“It was just a hiccup,” he said. “I hope by next summer that will be a distant memory.”
Muller said he hopes the EDRP will come up with effective strategies to help the communities prepare for future disasters.
“Hopefully, we will come away from this with some lessons on how to do it better next time,” he said. “As businesses the need for a disaster plan has never been so much in our face as far as recovery. I look forward to these recommendations that they’re going to bring forward.”
The EDRP received Provincial funding to visit 10 communities impacted by the flood. The others are High River, Vulcan, Waterton, Cochrane, Bragg Creek, Canmore, Sundre and the Crowsnest Pass, which were visited by the EDRP the last few weeks.
Volunteers spent a day in each town to assess the economic impact and prepare reports and recommendations to assist with business recovery.
EDRP member and Calgarian Leann Hackman-Carty said when the flood hit the second call she made was to Black Diamond Economic Development and Events Coordinator David Petrovich, who is a member of the Economic Developers of Alberta.
“They took a big hit during the prime season,” said Hackman-Carty of Black Diamond’s businesses. “They’re hanging on by a thread. They wouldn’t have had that cushion that normally would have taken them through the winter. “
Hackman-Carty told Black Diamond town council at its regular meeting on Dec. 4 the EDRP will provide its report and recommendations for the community likely early in the new year.
“When we heard their budget for economic development we said that’s not a lot,” she said. “We’ve got to do things that are smart and not costly.”
She said the communities are already moving in the right direction by working together in many capacities.
“You’ve got to work as a region,” she said. “When your bridge is cut off you realize how dependent you are on each other.”
Petrovich said he looks forward to seeing the suggestions and strategies the EDRP comes up with and will bring it to council, the Economic Development Committee and the Province’s Advanced Education Department, which is providing funding to communities based on the EDRP’s reports.
“I feel what we’re going to see is a real upsurge, especially next spring and maybe the spring after in tourism and also people visiting all year round,” he said. “With that grant money we are going to be able to do some exciting stuff.”
Petrovich said businesses have been hurting.
“Their prime cash flow season was severely damaged,” he said. “They don’t have a reserve built up to go into the winter.”
Turner Valley Mayor Kelly Tuck said she was grateful for the opportunity to sit down with the EDRP to share the community’s struggles over the last five months and is eager to learn what they come up with.