Interior businesses took $31 million economic hit from wildfires: report

Many businesses unaware of, or not accessing, available aid programs

A just-released report on the impact of last year’s devastating wildfires on the area’s economy paints a grim picture of the effects and makes clear that many area businesses are unaware of, or have not accessed, recovery programs designed to assist them.

The report was prepared for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to assess the fire’s impacts and what can be done to help businesses recover.

READ: B.C’s businesses recover after wildfires

The report states that the estimated total loss of sales due to wildfires in the study area was more than $21 million. The estimated total lost hours of employment due to wildfires was almost 100,000 hours, resulting in a very conservative estimate of just over $1 million in lost wages. Thirty per cent of respondents indicated that they had to engage in some form of layoffs.

The estimated total direct economic loss due to wildfires to date in the study area was almost $31 million; a number that is expected to grow. Forty-two per cent of businesses anticipate further economic loss in 2018 and beyond because of the 2017 wildfires. Some businesses are estimating, based on past experience, that tourism to the area will drop by 10 to 15 per cent for up to a decade.

“The biggest surprise for all of us was the extent of the economic impact,” says Debbie Sell, director of corporate services for the TNRD.

“People started providing information about their financial losses, but we didn’t anticipate the extent until we saw the analysis.”

She adds that the losses were not primarily due to businesses losing infrastructure in the fire.

“The losses came because of road closures, followed by evacuation alerts and orders.”

The report found that 457 or the 492 businesses with the TNRD were impacted in some way by the 2017 wildfires. The wildfires happened during the peak season for many businesses, intensifying the financial impact.

Almost half of businesses didn’t reach out for help

“Another interesting piece was the lack of understanding among business owners about what support programs are available,” continues Sell. “Programs were being developed and made available quickly, and one immediate thing we did was communicate out a summary of all the programs we were aware of… and sent them to business owners.”

The report states that about 19 per cent of businesses indicated that they were aware of aid programs but had not yet applied, and 39.2 per cent of businesses indicated that they had not participated in any support programs.

READ: $20 million wildfire recovery fund set up for ranchers

Sell says she was surprised to find that even if businesses knew about the programs available, many didn’t apply.

“They said it wasn’t worth the effort, or that they wanted to leave [the funding] for people who needed it more than they did. Some said the amounts offered barely covered their losses.” Other reasons for not applying included being unable to find funding to assist their business to recover; not meeting eligibility requirements of programs; and not having the capacity to complete the applications.

The sheer number of programs from different organizations was also identified as a factor.

READ: Federal help for B.C. wildfire recovery on way

It was also suggested that a translation program or initiative to help English as a second language business owners to participate in recovery would be helpful.

“It’s a conundrum: people don’t know the programs are there, or know but say it’s not worth their time,” says Sell. “The programs aren’t being fully utilized. People should be encouraged right now to access anything available to them. That shows that whatever programs are out there are addressing a need.

Many businesses not ready for disaster

Another discovery was that many businesses were not prepared for an emergency.

“People know what to take as individuals, but didn’t think to gather together their business documents. Business emergency planning is not being widely done.”

The report identified a lack of financial support to help businesses until the next [intake] cycle begins. Loans at zero per cent interest were cited as something that would be helpful to get businesses through what is for many a slow time of year.

Interior tourism needs help, report says

A common response from businesses was that marketing efforts need to be made to bring people back in to the area.

“There’s a sense of urgency to get a different message out as soon as possible; change the information that’s out there, and get the right information out,” says Sell. “Tourism groups are seeking and receiving funding to ramp up their efforts to get that message out.

“We’re all going through this together. There’s lots of evidence that everyone is trying to support businesses. It was a big event. We don’t want to downplay it, but we don’t want people thinking that it’s not Beautiful British Columbia anymore.”



editorial@accjournal.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Man charged in suspected Greater Victoria bus assault

The Victoria Police Department has arrested a man for sexual assault aboard… Continue reading

Library’s French collection gets $15,000 boost

Provincial grant adds extra French-language materials to Greater Victoria Public Library collection

Celebrating the heroic dogs of Saanich past

Cedar Hill exhibit features great dogs of history

Adopted pet pig gets killed and eaten

Animal was adopted out by SPCA staff in the Cowichan Valley

VIDEO: What you need to know today at the B.C. Games

B.C. Winter Games athletes work for gold in the last full day of competition

B.C. Games: Athletes talk Team Canada at PyeongChang 2018

From Andi Naudie to Evan McEachran there’s an Olympian for every athlete to look up to

Minor injuries after car veers into Courtenay dance studio

A driver and passenger were taken to hospital after their vehicle crashed… Continue reading

Snowboarders sliding into fresh territory at B.C. Games

Athletes hit the slopes for first appearance as an event at the B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops

Cougars hold upper hand on Westshore in VIJHL South semifinal

Victoria leads series 2-0, games 3 and 4 go tonight and tomorrow

Looking back at the 1979 B.C. Games: Good memories, even better jackets

39 years later, Kamloops is hosting the Winter Games again, with some volunteers returning

Saanich councillors spar over financial transparency

As Saanich council prepares to hold its inaugural 2018 budget meeting next… Continue reading

Saanich skater golden at B.C. Games

Desiree Grubell of Saanich won gold in Level 2 Special Olympics figure… Continue reading

OLYMPICS 101: Oldest and youngest Canadians to reach the podium

This year, Canada sent its most athletes in Winter Games history, here’s a look at record breakers

Most Read