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Gillon named to provincial level task force

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By Megan Walchuk Editor mwalchuk@fortfrances.com

The Rainy River District business community has been given a seat at the provincial table.

Geoff Gillon, Executive Director of the Rainy River Future Development Corp, has been appointed to sit on Ontario’s Small Business Economic Advisory Council. He’s one of just a dozen people selected to represent the needs of small businesses facing challenges in the wake of COVID-19.

The group has been meeting online, under the leadership of Prabmeet Sarkaria, Minister responsible for Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, with the goal of identifying challenges and finding solutions for small businesses as the province reopens.

“It’s been very interesting, listening to people from across the province,” said Gillon, who noted that although all regions are facing the same hardships, they impact each region very differently.

COVID-19’s impact on Tourism is one example, he noted. Whereas tourism operators in Southern Ontario will have a significant local population to draw from, once restrictions are eased, tourism in northern Ontario is reliant on far-flung travellers - particularly Americans, who will be barred from entry to the region for some time.

Re-opening for many sectors isn’t as easy as unlocking the door and turning on the lights, he noted. The restaurant sector across the province faces the unique challenges of significant start-up costs, ordering food and paying staff, even before the first customer walks through the door. Even then, capacity limits will drive down revenues.

However, he’s been impressed with the inventiveness of local restaurants and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s restaurants reinventing themselves into take-out establishments, or finding alternate delivery methods for goods and services, Gillon feels our region’s businesses have shown they can be creative and adaptable under difficult circumstances.

What he’d like to see for businesses is predictability, he said. Announcements from the province come with little warning, he said. If businesses had a timeline to work with, they would have an easier time adapting to the changing circumstances, he said.

Gillon’s appointment has been welcome news to many, including MPP Greg Rickford.

“I was beyond pleased to learn that Geoff Gillon of Rainy River Future Development Corporation was selected to join the Council provide a local perspective on reopening businesses,” said Rickford. “Geoff will bring Main Street small business experience to better inform the Ministerial Council on how best to make Ontario, and northwestern Ontario, open for business once again.”

“Our small businesses are the cornerstone of local economies, and time-tested, small business owners know better than anyone what it takes to create jobs, jumpstart growth, and get our economy moving again” said Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Minister, Prabmeet Sarkaria. “This is why it is vitally important to draw on their strengths, expertise and know-how to develop a prudent, people-focused plan that puts Ontario’s small businesses on the road to recovery.”

To further include main street proprieters in the reopening process, the province is asking small business owners to complete a survey. It can be found at:

Visit https://www.ontario.ca/form/survey-economic-impacts-covid-19.

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