Wildfire Business Transition Project News

The Wildfire Business Transition Story, Part 1: Accessing resources

June 13, 2018

For residents of the British Columbia Interior, wildfires are a regular occurrence. But when Deb Arnott and Karen Eden were evacuated from their homes last July, they knew that this time was different. They were right.

On July 6, a two-hectare wildfire had started west of 100 Mile House, marking the beginning of the record breaking 2017 wildfire season. The next day, 56 new fires erupted throughout the province leading to a series of evacuation alerts, orders and the declaration of a provincial state of emergency by the Government of British Columbia.

While concerned about their families and their homes, as managers of the Community Futures offices in their hometowns of Ashcroft and Williams Lake, both Deb and Karen also began to think about the hundreds of businesses in their regions and the devastating impact the wildfires would have on those operations. They knew that business owners would need help and so off they went to look for resources they could apply to the recovery efforts.

Deb and Karen were soon joined by their colleague Greg Lawrence, General Manager of Community Futures North Cariboo in Quesnel. While Greg’s region was not as seriously affected by the wildfires as were Karen’s and Deb’s, there were nonetheless a significant number of businesses that were impacted and Greg knew they too would require assistance with their recovery efforts.

Together, the three CF managers headed to Prince George to meet with Joel McKay, CEO of Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT). While the scope of the work that would need to be undertaken in the wildfire recovery process was not something NDIT had supported in the past, Joel had expressed an interest in looking at ways they might be able to help.

In the end, Deb, Karen and Greg were successful in accessing $200,000 from NDIT and another $140,000 from the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition. The funds, which were augmented with some of their own money, were critical in providing Community Futures Cariboo-Chilcotin, North Cariboo and Sun Country with the resources they needed to hire a team of business ambassadors to meet with business owners, help them assess the impact of the wildfires on their operations, and provide assistance in accessing appropriate recovery programs.

By late fall, Western Economic Diversification (WD) confirmed that they would contribute $1.3 million to the wildfire recovery process and the Wildfire Business Transition Project was launched. The contribution from WD enabled the three Community Futures groups to extend their Business Ambassador program and offer a range of business coaching, training and other professional services to the impacted businesses in their regions.

Funding from WD also enabled Community Futures to expand the program’s geographical coverage to include Community Futures Central Interior First Nations and Community Futures Thompson Country.

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For over 30 years, we’ve been fostering entrepreneurship in rural BC. We offer small business loans, business counseling and specialized programs to help you start or grow a business, and to help communities become more resilient and dynamic. Find out more…

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