Screenshot of Smithers District Chamber of Commerce Zoom Roundtable June 4.

Screenshot of Smithers District Chamber of Commerce Zoom Roundtable June 4.

Northern Development relaxes rules on business facade grants

Trust removes matching funds requirement and restrictions on what money can be used for

Smithers downtown businesses navigating reopening under COVID-19 distancing and hygiene measures got a break from the Northern Development Inititative Trust (NDIT) last week.

At a Chamber of Commerce Zoom Roundtable June 4, Joel McKay, NDIT CEO, outlined the relaxed rules around the organization’s Business Facade Improvement Program.

The program annually provides the Town of Smithers with a $20,000 grant it can use to help businesses spruce up their storefronts. In previous years, the money had to be used for that purpose alone and it was a matching grant, so the business also had to put up some cash on a dollar for dollar basis.

This year it will be a 100 per cent grant and businesses will be able to use it for other purposes. As an example, he said, the Town may approve its use to fit up a store with plexiglass shields to protect cashiers.

“We’re leaving it up to local government,” McKay said.

Smithers Deputy Mayor Gladys Atrill told The Interior News Town staff is already processing applications for the grants and said she will have more information on who will be getting them and what they will be used for in the coming weeks.

She said she was very pleased with NDIT’s flexibility, however.

“It’s good that the businesses are able to utilize the money and because NDIT has removed… all of the criteria, then if there’s a way the businesses can use the money to assist them this year, that’s fantastic.

McKay also reported that Smithers, along with Prince Rupert, had the top sales in the Support Local B.C. gift card campaign. On April 27, NDIT partnered with the program, which started in March as a response to COVID-19, to promote the sale of gift cards from local businesses to help them with short-term cash flow to see them through closures and slowdowns.

“That was kind of gratifying to know that in our community and Rupert, people are trying to support their businesses to that level,” Atrill said.