The City of Terrace's economic development manager recapped a challenging year during a Feb. 2 committee of the whole meeting. (Black Press Media File Photo)

City’s economic development manager recaps a challenging year

Economic response team in overdrive to help businesses through pandemic

The City of Terrace is taking stock of how it fared helping businesses navigate unprecedented challenges last year brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Committee of the Whole meeting Feb. 2, the city’s economic development manager, Deklan Corstanje, provided an overview of the city’s 2020 response to local business concerns, led by an economic response team he said acted quickly and seamlessly in the early days of the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 response, any emergency response in economic development is business retention on steroids. So business expansion is one of our priorities in our strategic plan of the OCP. The COVID-19 response was massive, and we all came together and are still moving forward together.”

The Terrace and District Economic Response Team (TDERT), consisting of the City of Terrace, Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce, Kermodei Tourism Society, Community Futures 16/37 and the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, embraced a number of Shop Local programs. This included the adoption of the Support Local BC program, which attracted 41 local business offering online retail, Plaid Friday and Shop Local Passport campaigns.

Plaid Friday took its inspiration from holiday Black Friday sales to encourage people to avoid large online retailers and spending locally. The social media campaign reached 6,589 people with 17,871 total impressions through actions like links, shares and comments.

Plaid Friday inspired a second endeavor, the Shop Local Passport, in which businesses engaged more directly with consumers to streamline and fine tune the shopping experience within health guidelines. Passport holders collected stamps from local retailers which converted into entries for prize draws.

The Terrace Downtown Improvement Area Society contributed $6,000 to the $14,400 program, $5,000 of which was used to purchase prizes from area businesses.

Among 140 eligible entries, there were 43 prize winners. Corstanje estimated the program attracted about $200,000 in consumer spending and $330,000 in economic impact over the three-week period.

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The program was almost twice as popular as Plaid Friday with 26,236 impressions on social media.

Corstanje said the city’s economic response to the pandemic was copied by other northwest communities, and featured on the “Success” page of the B.C. Economic Development Association’s website.

In contrast to provincial government snapshots of the pandemic’s impacts on business, the city initiated an outreach program to help keep businesses afloat that included 40 newsletters, digital surveys, support pages on the city’s website and 30 webinars with local experts addressing Terrace’s unique business challenges.

Top concerns among business owners were marketing and communications (21 per cent), navigating WorkSafeBC and other regulations (13 per cent), staffing (13 per cent) and access to PPE and cleaning supplies (17 per cent). Staffing in Terrace fell 23 per cent for part timers and 14 per cent for full time —an average job loss of 18 per cent.

Corstanje said the department will focus on growing its relationships with TDERT, Kitselas Economic Development Corporation and Kitsumkalum Economic Development Group.

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“I’d like to see the relationships get better; it just takes work and attention, and lots of dialogue … As challenging as the year was, as well as we rose to the challenge, we still have some work to do.”

Improving business intelligence, retention and expansion, and communication with the broader business world are also priorities.

“We don’t talk about our successes enough. I think we’ve seen over the past couple years some real successes in economic development. In [2020], although it was a hard year for everybody, there are silver linings. We need to take those and celebrate them. For one, it keeps morale high … by doing that, businesses that we may want to attract in the future, investors that may want to invest in our local businesses, they take notice of that and we can end up on their radar.”