Sidney will look into developing a long-term economic strategy, with businesses being asked for additional input on how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November, council unanimously approved having the municipality consider an “appropriate” budget to work with a contractor to develop a long-term economic strategy next year against the backdrop of COVID-19.
Councillors also approved having the town work with Sidney Business Improvement Area (BIA) Society and the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce to develop a follow-up survey of businesses impacted by COVID-19 – at a cost of $5,000 – during the first quarter of 2021.
An earlier survey found almost 10 respondents (79 per cent) reported the pandemic had negatively impacted their business, with 15.5 per cent saying they experienced what the report calls “business-as-usual” conditions. The rest — 5.5 per cent — said the pandemic had a positive impact on their operations.
The two decisions flowed out of a meeting of Sidney’s economic advisory committee in late October that revealed some support but also reservations about the measures, according to the committee minutes.
Chief administrative officer Randy Humble “expressed concerns” about conducting a survey because of on-going COVID restrictions and what the minutes call “survey fatigue,” a point also echoed by Andrew Hicik, Sidney’s director of corporate services and chief financial officer. According to the minutes, Hicik described businesses in “survival mode” and questioned how much they will want to engage in a survey.
The survey idea had several supporters among committee members including Denny Warner, executive director of the chamber, and Brad Edgett, Sidney BIA’s president.
Some committee members, however, appeared less enthusiastic toward the idea of developing a long-term strategy. Rod Hunchak, director of business development and community relations for the Victoria Airport Authority, agreed with the survey, because it may shed light on some business priorities. But going beyond a survey would have no value, he added, noting that the airport has scrapped long-term planning, looking ahead only in terms of months or the next quarter.
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