Work on a business recovery and resiliency plan is already underway for the City of Maple Ridge.
City economic development staff held a special meeting on Thursday, April 9, to discuss what form this will take when restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted.
From the discussions, recommendations are to be forwarded onto the city’s Mayor and council.
Currently the city has created a COVID-19 business resource webpage which puts all the federal and provincial support resources in one location.
The mobile numbers of city staff are also located on this page so any business can call directly to get one-on-one confidential assistance with navigating and accessing the programs that are available.
Staff have also been doing business check-ins, sending out surveys each week with a set of consistent questions.
“We are focusing on employers in the various areas in Maple Ridge where the COVID-19 impacts may not be as visible as they are in the downtown centre,” said Wendy Dupley, director of economic development for the city.
The Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association is also keeping in touch with businesses in their area and collecting that information, added Dupley.
Ineke Boekhorst, executive director of the DMRBIA, is hopeful downtown businesses will be able to land on their feet.
She estimates that around 75 per cent of businesses in the downtown core are now closed.
“It’s really hard to re-establish. It really depends on how long this all takes,” she said, adding that for business owners, where this is their only source of income, it will be the most challenging.
“Even with deferring payments, rents, lease, utilities – you have to pay it at some point – and that’s really difficult for small businesses to do,” she said.
City staff are continuing to meet virtually bi-weekly with tourism business partners and stakeholders to ensure that they stay connected, continued Dupley.
The DTMRBIA and Chamber of Commerce have also collaborated on a set of lists of open businesses so that residents can connect with those offering essential services during the COVID-19 health emergency.
And a special edition of the Ridge Business Buzz newsletter was recently distributed.
According to survey results, Dupley said, most Maple Ridge businesses believe they will be OK in the short term but are concerned about the potential longer term impacts on the economy, in general, and the effects on supply chains.
Boekhorst is encouraging businesses to decorate downtown windows with hearts and rainbows.
“People realize that our downtown is suffering,” she said.
“We’re all in this together.”