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Central Okanagan regional leaders trying to help local businesses

Task force launched to help Central Okanagan businesses survive pandemic
WATCH: Local leaders in the Central Okanagan have created a task force to help support struggling businesses throughout the coronavirus crisis. Jules Knox reports.

Local leaders throughout the Central Okanagan have banded together to back a team that will help businesses during the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The economic recovery task force is looking at options to help businesses survive the current economy and into the future.

Although the region is heavily reliant on the tourism industry, particularly in the warmer months, officials still don’t know what to expect this summer.

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“As you know right now, the recommendation, particularly between provinces, is not to travel, is to stay home, unless it’s absolutely essential,” Kelowna mayor Colin Basran said during an online press conference.

“So I think it’s too early to tell what tourism will look like as of now, and we will continue to take direction from Dr. Bonnie Henry.”

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Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin voiced concern that even with the help of the federal government, some local businesses may not be able to reopen.

“And that’s a very scary thing,” she said.

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The goal of the task force is to support businesses through things like a buy-local program and by launching the “#explorekelownafromhome” hashtag.

“We’re certainly promoting takeout orders. I know I’ve been staying home the last week or so, and I think I’ve put a couple of pounds on myself,” West Kelowna mayor Gord Milsom said.

The task force is also trying to showcase companies that have adapted to a new way of business with a process or innovation that can be used by other companies, Central Okanagan Regional District spokesperson Corie Griffiths said.

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The economic development commission will also help businesses find the right help for them through one-on-one concierge service, she added.

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“What we’re hearing from businesses is sales are down, concern for their employees, and that it’s difficult to find resources in one place or understand them,” Griffiths said.

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce issued a statement supporting the regional task force, calling it a critical step.

“Weeks ago, we recognized that public health will be the key input to any plan for economic recovery, and we have been pressing local government to take a leadership role that brings together business and public health, so we’re glad this is moving forward,” Kelowna Chamber of Commerce president Jeffrey Robinson said.

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However, Westbank First Nation Chief Christopher Derickson emphasized that public health is still the priority for local leaders.

“Despite our discussion here about economic recovery and how we get out of this going forward, [it’s important] in the current situation that we continue to practice these social distancing measures,” Derickson said.
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“There won’t be an economic recovery if we don’t flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19.”