Sault chamber of commerce calls for increased small business support in border towns
SAULT STE. MARIE -- Sault Ste. Marie's Chamber of Commerce is pleading for more financial support for struggling small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in border towns.
With a good chunk of revenue stripped away, thanks to the Canadian-U.S. border shutdown, the chamber's CEO Rory Ring believes local business in border communities have been some of the hardest hit across the nation by the global pandemic.
"Businesses in these communities rely significantly on cross-border trade," said Ring.
"We've lost all of those consumers in Sault Ste. Marie, whether it's for dining, accommodation, going to the theatre or movie theatre or live music."
Ring said the chamber is advocating that businesses within 100 km of border cities receive an extra 25 per cent of rent subsidies that the federal government is now offering, in addition to the up to 65 per cent that's already available.
"It's had a devastating effect on SMEs in the border region," Ring said.
"Not only that, there's other factors to, whether it's buy America or shrinking demand in the U.S., so we have to also make sure that we're addressing their needs as well and to keep people employed."
For Canadian and American consumers, the day after Black Friday is the lesser known small business Saturday, encouraging shoppers to buy local.
"Things have been going quite well actually," said Keegan Gjos, Co-Owner of Games Nook II, a board game and collectible store.
"I was surprised, I thought things would be slow since reopening, we're not running events right now, but yeah, business has been good overall."
At Void Vinyl, an amalgamation of a record store, clothing shop and Cafe, its owner says his experience since reopening has been rather mixed.
"We had to make some adjustments to be able to sell some of our items," said Nathan Wilding.
"My dream was always to turn this more into just a store, we had like a few parties and vinyl listening parties here before COVID happened, but COVID has kind of ruined that."
Both stores said regardless of their trajectory, the ongoing border shutdown has impacted them.
It's why they'd be on board with added help from the government in order to navigate what they say has been a tough time all together.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce said it already has the support of several southwestern Ontario communities.
Its next step is to take it to the provincial chamber and move the initiative across the country, with the help of the Canadian chamber.