This article submitted by Ron Gaudet, Chief Executive Officer, Economic Development Greater Saint
Spring is about rebirth. How we have longed for signs of that this year. The past eight weeks have been a bumpy road as we traversed unchartered waters. However, we are easing into the reality of a new normal and a fundamental shift in how we do business. Last week, New Brunswick began to ease restrictions imposed by COVID-19, allowing certain businesses including offices, retail stores, and restaurants to begin the process of reopening. But the process to re-open is not as straightforward as unlocking the doors. Businesses are faced with a new reality impacting how employees and customers navigate spaces and interact with each other.
As we ease into this new phase, the development and implementation of a COVID-19 Operations Plan is the starting point for each business to mitigate and understand potential risks. Last week, in anticipation of loosening business restrictions, we turned the focus of our Weekly Business Insights webinar, presented in partnership with the Saint John Region Chamber, to the topic of Getting Back to Business: COVID-19 Operational Planning. Jim Ramsay, VP Health and Safety and Continuous Improvement from J.D. Irving, provided an overview of what is required to develop an operational plan that meets public health requirements to keep their employees and their customers safe.
The team at EDGSJ has been working to provide support as businesses navigate evolving relief funding programs, operational policy changes, and sharing information with our community. Our new “Ahead of the Curve“ website showcases examples of Innovation & Adaptation in businesses from Greater Saint John and across Canada. The website also contains a toolkit of resources on Business Continuity Planning, Health and Safety measures, and productivity tools.
In conjunction with the Saint John Region Chamber, Uptown Saint John, ONB, Working NB, Develop Saint John, ACOA, The City of Saint John, and NRC, we launched a regional business survey to gauge the impact that COVID-19 has had on the local economy. The survey results illustrated the severe impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the local economy, particularly on small businesses. On the bright side, many businesses have received financial assistance and 40% of respondents saw opportunities coming out of the crisis.
As we transition from the critical to the stabilization phase of our response and recovery plan, we will focus our efforts on supporting workforce initiatives, continuing to assess the economic position of the Greater Saint John Region, and provide resources and support to businesses as they prepare to engage in tomorrow’s economy. Next Tuesday, we will partner with UNBSJ’s MBA program to deliver a webinar entitled “Pandemic-Proof your Business”. Business operations are going to change, and we are working with our partners to help entrepreneurs re-think their business models to succeed in our new reality.
Our team continues to work alongside regional, provincial, and federal agencies to support business recovery and growth and to restore business and consumer confidence. There are tremendous stories of resilience and strength in the face of COVID-19, and we will continue to capture these as examples of Greater Saint John’s ability to recover from the current crisis.
The grass is now turning a vibrant green and robins are gathering and readying for fresh beginnings. Dare we view our future through that lens – a lens of Greater Saint John’s economic refresh!