SUDBURY -- FedNor is helping NORCAT weather some of the challenges it's facing due to COVID-19.

NORCAT sales are down 85 per cent year-over-year. On Monday, government officials revealed it would be providing more than $519,000 in new capital.

According to FedNor, more than $429,000 is coming from the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund to keep the organization's staff working and to keep their state-of-the-art facility at the Underground Testing Centre in Greater Sudbury on track.

The remaining $90,000 will establish a technology hub to accelerate software, gaming and app development in the city.

During the virtual announcement, Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre said they're aware efforts to help businesses have contributed to the massive deficit the country is now facing.

"But imagine if we would have done nothing," he said. "Basically the jobs that would have been lost, the businesses that would have been shuttered, the bankruptcies that we would have seen and the effect on our whole economy and the banking sector."

Collective debt

As a citizen of Greater Sudbury, Lefebvre said he stood behind the decision they made to incur the debt as a collective, as opposed to leaving Canadians face it alone.

"We promote close-proximity, hands-on training, experiential hands-on training, couple that with what you experience during a pandemic, you can appreciate that the value proposition that we relayed in the market was no longer a value proposition whereby individuals couldn't be in close proximity for hands-on training," said Don Duval, NORCAT CEO.

Duval said they had to pause operations because of that close-proximity at the start of the pandemic, being uncertain about what would happen with the transmission of the virus and what the protocols would be to deliver it safely.

He said there was a large amount of anxiety with workers in the mining industry being put in that position, so they were forced to deal with a drop in the number of people enrolling in programs.

"You can translate that notion of close-experiential hands-on training across all of our offices and a variety of different programs, so that was the shock that we trying to navigate through within a four week time frame," Duval said.

But it's not all bad news and COVID-19 has certainly given some the opportunity come up with new ideas.

Duval said they have helped more aspiring entrepreneurs in the last six months than they have any other time.

Lefebvre and NORCAT said there are additional regional announcements coming in other sectors to help those other businesses who have had difficulty navigating through the pandemic, such as tourism and hospitality.