Instead of a collaborative marketing fund as previously discussed, Council will be looking into a community marketing program to benefit businesses recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and drive traffic into the local business community.
A discussion around options of a potential program will happen by June 15, 2021, and in the meantime, Council hopes to interact with small businesses in the community and learn more about what they need.
Instead of requesting a report from administration, Council felt it would be simpler to approach the business community themselves and gather feedback.
“We should be out engaging with our local businesses and asking them what they want and what works for them,” said Coun. Ryan Maguhn.
After council voted down the collaborative marketing plan, Coun. JoAnn Race emphasized the importance of using the $30,000 previously earmarked for the collaborative marketing fund, to support all local businesses and not delay a potential support program further.
CAO Emily Olsen noted that there is no rush in allocating the money and that depending on subscription of the business resiliency support program, these funds could be placed there as well.
The original proposed Collaborative Marketing Fund-COVID-19 Resilience Support would have used $30,000 from the Emergency Response Reserve to promote local businesses.
Council discussed at a previous meeting that individual local businesses could receive up to $500 for approved marketing efforts and up to $5,000 collaboratively for approved marketing activities. The goal was to encourage and support local business resiliency and sustainability, according to administration’s report.
Coun. Dewly Nelson first voiced doubt about the efficiency and effectiveness of the collaborative marketing plan.
“I struggle that with zero cases we had a State of Local Emergency and now with 17 or 18 cases we’re funding businesses to bring traffic in their doors,” he said.
He would rather hold on to the $30,000 and have it ready to flow out to businesses when a restart and recovery is in full swing. Within such a short time frame he also felt businesses would be rushed to figure out to make this work.
“A larger campaign has a higher likelihood to have a bigger local impact than $500 per door. I think a $30,000 investment likely, with the ability to capture matching grants, I think could be used to do things that bring more traffic into our community and do more for business as a whole than the individual grants do,” said Nelson.
Maguhn said that businesses identified marketing as an area that requires support and was missed in prior council discussions.
“A number of businesses that I talked to, talked about driving foot traffic in their door because they are in recovery mode and many of them are looking for any kind of way to reduce the pain of what’s been happening to them in terms of COVID-19,” Maguhn said.
Funds from the Emergency Response Reserve originated from the Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) grant, which created a surplus in 2020 when it was used to offset impacts of COVID-19.
Council utilized $500,000 of the $700,000 available to reduce the tax rate over the next three years, and $30,8000 to increase funding provided to the Chamber of Commerce.
Currently, the Emergency Response Reserve sits at $169,060.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice