Editorial - New program can help some business

When stores are empty there are generally calls for some sort of incentive to get businesses back into them.

Incentives are not new locally, as was noted at the regular meeting of Yorkton Council Monday. At the meeting City Manager Lonnie Kaal explained, the City of Yorkton initiated an Enterprise Zone Incentive Program in 2005 to encourage property development in a specific area of the City.

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So slow economic times are not new, although the reason, a worldwide pandemic is definitely different than other recent downturns.

The problem COVID-19 has caused is actually threefold, although two of them are certainly inter-related.

The first problem is simply people are not shopping like they once did.

When governments closed businesses earlier this year in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 it hit some businesses hard.

Some adapted and have weathered the storm better than might have been anticipated, sales of some things have been very good.

Others have seen sales stymied and for a business that may have been working close to the red line in terms of profit pre-COVID, the pandemic may be the tipping point toward closure.

Business closures of course are not new, they happen with some regularity.

But, generally when Bill’s Shop has closed, Burt’s Place has been waiting to try their hand at business. There are always entrepreneurs with ideas willing to take the risk of starting a business, and when an economy is humming along under more normal circumstances that means empty storefronts have a chance to be filled.

In a pandemic world, where numbers in Canada and Saskatchewan are skyrocketing, the entrepreneur is naturally more reluctant to take the risk of opening a new store, which is problem two.

The natural reluctance of the entrepreneur is fed too by our political leader’s at all three levels of government citing how bad it is, which in-part becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling vision. If you say the sky is falling enough, it becomes accepted it must be falling.

So, the question is how to entice business to invest during COVID, or take the bigger step to open something new.

In Moose Jaw administrators helped launch a new online marketplace for local sellers Friday, kicking in $10,000 from the city’s economic development fund to help start the online platform, according to a Leader-Post story by Evan Radford.

Dubbed Virtual Moose Jaw Marketplace, it allows shops to market and sell their wares online while offering COVID-safe methods for buyers to get them, like curbside pick-up or drop-off.

It’s an idea that takes on the idea of online shopping head-on creating a buy local online option, which may well be a lingering reality of COVID.

Monday, in Yorkton Council took steps of its own to offer some help. After consultations with members of the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce, Yorkton Business Improvement District and other key individuals in the community City Administration created a draft policy which was reviewed by the Economic Development Committee, who after making some minor edits, has recommended that Council approve the incentive programs.

The objectives are to:

• Encourage the enhancement of façade and site improvements for all businesses in the City.

• Encourage the expansion of locally-owned businesses such that those that improve the value of their property by more than $50,000

• Encourage the re-investment into vacant commercial buildings such that those that occupy and upgrade vacant properties may be eligible for a complete tax holiday

The incentives are well-targeted and might just be the added encouragement for some to take the plunge, while not being a huge drain on City resources, which makes it a good effort to address the current situation.

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