WELLINGTON COUNTY – The County of Wellington economic development department is focusing on COVID-related grants, mental health resources and promoting local tourism to help with recovery in 2021.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the county economic development committee was presented with recommendations based on a business retention and expansion (BR+E) survey which had 435 Wellington County businesses respond.
The 2021 budget approved $200,000 in BR+E recovery funds.
Crystal Ellis, director of economic development, said they have four key areas of focus: operating safely, business services, mental health resources for business and a shop local and promoting Wellington County.
One of the major components of operating safely is a personal protective equipment (PPE) grant with an allocation of $1,000 to each who qualifies.
“We were told consistently through our survey it was difficult to obtain PPE and the pricing was quite high,” Ellis said to the committee.
There is an Ontario PPE grant but Ellis said the hope is this grant can help cover those who didn’t apply for that grant.
They are also looking at collective buying and developing a PPE supplier and resource list to further knowledge for businesses to know where they can source the equipment within Wellington County which in turn also supports local business.
There is also a $1,500 matching grant for businesses that need to physically modify their space for safety and a $1,000 grant for digital support like graphic design or marketing.
Part of this is also to help businesses connect with local service providers to assist businesses that may be struggling where to begin with a shift to online.
“We don’t know who to hire, we don’t know how to go about some of these things to market our businesses,” Ellis said, referring to some things heard through the survey.
The economic development department compiled an extensive list of mental health resources to have available on the county website for local businesses.
The shop local and promote Wellington County is more of an internal effort with local municipalities to develop a marketing campaign.
Ellis said the recent takeout food map is a good early example of this and they’re looking at other maps to highlight great places to see and do in the county for a self-guided tour feel.
“As the weather improves, we know people will be coming to Wellington County, they feel safe traveling in the rural areas,” Ellis said. “Micro-tourism is going to be an actual push. So that would be day-trips, picnic stops, places to hike.”
Ellis said the mental health resource listing can go up almost right away, the grants are likely to begin in mid-March with the Wellington County promotion looking more toward the spring and summer.
The committee accepted the report for approval at next week’s county council meeting.
Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com