Locally owned and operated businesses are the social, cultural and economic heart of a community. Unfortunately, this past year has left many unsure if they can continue. In this weeklong series, we look at the vital role local businesses play in our communities, the financial pressure they are under due to COVID-19 and what we can do to help them survive.
More local businesses will permanently fold the longer COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, a small-business advocate warns.
Ryan Mallough, director of provincial affairs for Ontario at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said a survey of its members found one in six are considering closing up shop, representing about 75,000 businesses in Ontario.
“When you lose a small business in a community, it’s not just the economic loss, it’s not just the business owner’s livelihood being pulled away, the employees’ livelihood, you’re losing a little bit of your community’s soul. You’re losing that meeting spot. Those things make our neighbourhoods unique and really make main street what it is,” Mallough said.
In the fall of 2020, a survey showed only 21 per cent of businesses expressed confidence in Ontario’s economic outlook, according to an economic report done by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). That number is a record low since the OCC began measuring business confidence in 2011.
It’s even lower in the Niagara-Hamilton area. Only 12 per cent of businesses in those regions expressed confidence, which could partially have to do with the border closure and lack of international travel. Other tourist-heavy regions, like Muskoka-Kawartha, were nearly twice as confident (23 per cent) in Ontario’s outlook, but they rely more on travellers from within the province.
Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce CEO Mishka Balsom said Niagara has many businesses in the accommodation sector, the hardest hit area economically during this pandemic.
“They are the ones who have experienced the largest losses and lack of confidence as they’re moving forward,” Balsom said, adding the post-pandemic rebound for the accommodation sector is uncertain.