The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) council has voted in favour of adopting a plan to accelerate business and economic recovery by enabling small and medium construction firms to remain in the region.
"We met with council yesterday (May 25) and they had a presentation from all of the stakeholders," said Charles Iggulden, president of the Fort McMurray Construction Association (FMCA). "One of the things I stressed to the council is that there is a need to integrate their major capital projects with the business and economic recovery plan. They were really receptive to this suggestion and are going to sit down with us to write up tenders."
During a regular meeting at Edmonton City Hall on May 25, the RMWB council decided to implement a Business and Economic Recovery Plan. The three-to-five year plan takes a co-ordinated approach for the region, aiming to maximize efforts and resources amongst all local stakeholders, business support organizations and governments.
"The economic benefit of using local contractors involves the multiplier effect of employees working and spending their money in the community," said Iggulden. "Every dollar earned and then spent locally switches hands six to 10 times to different retail services or suppliers. We have been telling people that for every dollar spent there is there is a multiplier effect of about 1.7 dollars."
According to a council report, the plan is based on the assumption that businesses will be heavily impacted by the Fort McMurray wildfires in terms of lost revenue, business disruption, damage to their business properties and loss of inventory.
To support local businesses, the plan will be implemented in three phases:
- Phase 1: immediate business response
- Phase 2: business and economic response and recovery
- Phase 3: full business and economic recovery and implementation
The main focus of the plan is building out and obtaining funding for Phase 1. A business recovery hotline was launched on May 30 to provide updates and re-entry information.
Local businesses will be asked to register and complete a business recovery survey, which will identify immediate and short term needs of the business community.
Financial relief will be provided to every business with a RMWB business license. Businesses must call the hotline and register to be eligible for monetary relief.
The RMWB's Economic Development Department is partnering with Economic Developers Alberta to implement Phase 1 with funding from the Canadian Red Cross Society.
A Business Recovery Welcome Centre will open as a one-stop shop for businesses returning to get local, municipal, provincial and federal resources.
After re-entry has been established, tradeshows will be launched in collaboration with local stakeholders to address business recovery issues. The tradeshows will also assist local businesses in obtaining work related to the rebuild.
The collaboration of local stakeholders is required to ensure that all segments of the business community make a meaningful contribution to economic recovery.
The RMWB council voted on May 11 to undertake a review of the 2016 approved capital budget as part of an assessment of its public infrastructure investment.
The review will assess which projects need to continue to provide core services to the community and which projects can be deferred or cancelled to release funds for budget reduction and/or the re-allocation of funds to new priority projects.
The RMWB administration has been instructed to present a report to council on June 7, 2016, which includes recommendations and options.