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Canmore to switch gears on new economic development strategy after impacts of COVID-19

“You need to be adaptive to the needs of the community and this is complete adaptation on the fly."
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A sign thanking front line workers to the COVID-19 pandemic hangs in the shop window of Tin Box in Canmore on March 31. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

CANMORE – The Town of Canmore is reassessing its economic development strategy after COVID-19 has already had severe economic impacts on local businesses.

Canmore council approved a new strategy at its regular council meeting on March 3 that would see a focus on diversifying the economy and supporting the business community, but said it is instead moving towards an economic recovery strategy.   

“You need to be adaptive to the needs of the community and this is complete adaptation on the fly,” said Eleanor Miclette, the Town’s economic development manager.

The economic development strategy presented at the March 3 meeting would have seen the introduction of a SmartStart entrepreneurship training program as well as a plan to build out the business visitation program into an annual process as two of its work plan priorities. It was broken down into three strategic pillars; nurturing an inclusive and sustainable economy; continuing to diversify Canmore’s economy; and retaining and attracting a talented workforce.

However, Miclette said that COVID-19 has interrupted the SmartStart program, among other initiatives within the strategy, and therefore, the focus has shifted in order to respond to the ongoing pandemic.

“The changing needs that our community has seen has gone from looking at SmartStart, it was supposed to hit a launch on March 17, to saying ‘OK, we need to completely pull the brakes there’ and look at what will it take for business retention? How do we support our current business community? What are they needing?” said Miclette.

For the time being, Miclette explained the recent announcement of online webinars is one way her department is trying to help local business owners.

“We’re launching a series of webinars to address some of the needs that were identified, trying to give them supports that way,” she said.

The programs, in partnership with the Business Improvement Area (BIA), have webinars on e-commerce, as well as COVID-19 supports including, a taxes course and a human resources course.

“As we see those needs, we will keep those going,” said Miclette. “So that’s a re-direct of where we were heading to what we need to do now to support local business owners.”

As the situation continues to evolve, Miclette and her team continue to work on an economic recovery strategy in place of the original strategy.

The Town of Canmore activated its Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) on March 13 as COVID-19 coronavirus began to become more prominent in the province of Alberta. Canmore declared a local state of emergency on March 25.  

On March 27, Premier Jason Kenney ordered that all storefront businesses be closed, including restaurants and bars, though take-out or delivery would still be permitted.

Since March 13, numerous businesses in the Bow Valley have shut their doors to the public with thousands of lay-offs occurring as a result.

 

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