Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) has been supporting businesses affected by mill curtailments and closures in northern B.C., but so far it has received no applications from the Houston area.
The agency has been offering a rebate program to help small and medium sized businesses recover the costs of third-party consulting projects that aim to sustain businesses during the economic downturn in the forest products industry.
Maureen Czirfusz, executive director of the Houston and District Chamber of Commerce, encouraged eligible Houston businesses to apply.
“If a business has been affected by the downturn in the forestry sector, they should look into the program and apply,” Czirfusz said, adding the rebate is open to many types of businesses, from retail to manufacturing.
The hardest part about the economic downturn has been the uncertainty it’s created in the entire region, said Czirfusz.
Canfor Corp. has recently announced its latest province-wide shutdown of sawmill operations from Christmas to after New Year’s Day.
“When the mill is on a curtailment, it has a trickle-down effect that can be felt by the whole community,” Czirfus said.
The forestry affected business consulting rebate reimburses up to 75 per cert of the costs of contracted consulting services to a maximum of $15,000.
But only eligible businesses in some industries located in NDIT’s service region may apply for the program. These include businesses with less than 500 employees and annual revenues of less than $100 million, as well as First Nations businesses.
Some of the eligible industries include retail, tourism operators, hospitality, accommodations, agriculture, ranching and manufacturing.
A total of six projects have been approved so far since the rebate program was launched in August, said Felicia Magee, NDIT’s director of business development.
Magee said the program has generated a lot of interest from businesses across NDIT’s service region and will continue to be offered in 2020.
Joel McKay, the NDIT’s CEO, said the agency is “very aware” of the potential economic impacts mill closures and curtailments may have on communities and businesses.
“This program seeks to help offset those impacts and sustain our communities during this difficult time,” McKay added.
Northern Development’s region covers approximately seventy per cent of the province. The region encompasses 39 municipalities, nine regional districts, one regional municipality and 88 First Nations communities.
For more information about eligibility or how to apply, visit www.northerndevelopment.bc.ca.