Wood Buffalo Business Recovery Hotline - Background

EDA’s role in the Wood Buffalo Business Recovery Hotline is Complete

Economic developers are trained in business retention and expansion; business and investment attraction; workforce development; opportunity identification and performance metrics. Increasingly they are also being trained in the area of business and economic recovery. They work with a range of stakeholders on a daily basis, and are able to align themselves with government, the private and non-profit sectors. As a result, they are the ones that need to be empowered to lead business and economic recovery in their community. They have the ultimate accountability. 

It was because of this accountability model that we presented the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) and the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) with a phased business and economic recovery plan, in which establishing a Hotline was the first step. 

As of September 30, 2016, EDA’s contribution to the hotline project is now complete as a new phase of business recovery is underway.

We wish the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo continued success as it continues to unveil future business and economic recovery initiatives in the region.

Data Points - The Result: 

On May 30, 2016, Economic Developers Alberta (EDA) opened the Wood Buffalo Business Recovery Hotline in Calgary, Alberta as a resource for businesses affected by the wildfires. Solely funded by the Canadian Red Cross, the Hotline was developed and operated by EDA, in close collaboration with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) as their offices at the time were inhabitable.  

Its goals and objectives were to:

  • Contact approximately 4,000 companies with current RMWB business licenses;
  • Update contact information on these companies;
  • Collect information on their specific needs after the wildfire;
  • Provide resources to help with their identified needs;
  • Assess their eligibility for Red Cross Small Business Relief Funding in the amount of $1,000; and
  • Advise of the eligibility status and provide further instructions as needed.

From May 30 – August 31, the Hotline handled 15,669 calls; 4,890 incoming, and 10,779 outgoing, By the end of August,  3,496 small businesses received $1000 in emergency financial aid.

    Lead by Economic Developers Alberta in collaboration with:

    • Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Economic Development Department- staff, resources, additional management support, liaison with various government and community stakeholders, RMWB website updates and communication
    • Canadian Red Cross- funding
    • ATB Financial- support with distribution of emergency funds to small businesses
    • ExecutivePulse Inc.- CRM system, survey development

    Message to Stakeholders:

    Deadline to apply for Small Business Emergency Relief Funding set for July 30 * extended to August 12

    The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) with the support of Economic Developers Alberta and the  Canadian Red Cross  launched the Business Recovery Hotline, to provide updates for business owners and link  them to local resources that will assist them with issues or concerns. The hotline will also be the point of entry for  business owners to complete a business recovery survey that will identify their distinct short-term and long-term  needs. The information will then be used by the community to accelerate the business recovery process. 

    EDA is pleased to support the RMWB in it's business and economic recovery strategy. Economic developers play a critical role in this process. In 2013, after the floods that swept through southern Alberta, EDA developed the Economic Disaster Recovery Project (EDRP). The EDRP is being used as a valuable template for the RMWB's economic disaster recovery strategy after forest fires devastated the region in May 2016. 

    Media Release:

    (Fort McMurray, AB – July 11, 2016) – Small businesses in the Wood Buffalo region impacted by the devastating fire that swept through the region in May will have until July 30 to apply for initial emergency financial relief of $1000.

    Announced on June 10, 2016, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) and Economic Developers Alberta (EDA) – thanks to financial support from the Canadian Red Cross – have been providing $1,000 to each small business that meets the eligibility criteria.

    “In just one month, approximately 1,900 small businesses have registered through the Wood Buffalo Business Recovery Hotline,” said Amanda Haitas, Manager, Economic Development. “Our goal is to reach all small businesses in the region affected by the wildfire to ensure they are receiving the help they need.”

    Financial relief for small business was identified as a key priority in the Business and Economic Disaster Recovery Plan, approved by Council on May 25, 2016. To receive the emergency relief funds, small businesses must phone the Wood Buffalo Business Recovery Hotline to register their business. Once registered, small businesses that meet the eligibility criteria will receive instructions on how to receive the $1000 of emergency relief.

    "Economic Developers Alberta is pleased to support its members at the RMWB with the Hotline and Emergency Relief Program," said Leann Hackman Carty, EDA CEO.  "Economic developers play a critical leadership role in a community’s business and economic recovery process and I am pleased to see how this Economic Development Department has put together an efficient recovery plan that will ensure the business community in this region gets back on its feet as quickly as possible."

    Small businesses are able to register by phoning the Wood Buffalo Business Recovery Hotline at 1-855-RMWB BIZ (1-855-769-2249) from Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. To receive funding, businesses must meet the following eligibility criteria:

    • Register their business at the RMWB Business Recovery Hotline (1-855-RMWB-BIZ).
    • Have an active RMWB business license.
    • Be located/headquartered in a RMWB community.
    • Be a small business – defined as having 50 employees or less, excluding contractors.

    For further resources and information, visit choosewoodbuffalo.ca. 

    Message from EDA's CEO:

    May 4, 2016: As you may know, one of our member communities, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray) is currently dealing with a significant wildfire. From the most recent media reports, it appears the current priorities are safety/evacuation of residents and protecting valuable infrastructure.

    As in previous disasters, EDA has reached out to our members to let them know that our thoughts and prayers are with them, their families and community leaders as they deal with the immediate crisis and plan for the eventual recovery and rebuilding efforts. We have also advised them we would be happy to help garner resources and support from our organization and membership if, and when the need for the economic disaster recovery becomes a higher priority. As you may recall, after the floods in Southern Alberta a few years ago, EDA spearheaded the Economic Disaster Recovery Project (EDRP), which provided help and support to those communities adversely affected by the floods.  

    As the situation in Fort McMurray develops, if EDA is able to play a role in the economic disaster recovery component, we will definitely be communicating with our membership to let you know what that could look like and how to get involved. We have already received offers of support from our international, national and provincial economic development partners to assist when and if a response is required.As an organization committed to Alberta's economic prosperity, and supporting those who are working on the front lines every day, EDA stands ready and willing to help the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo recover as quickly as possible.

    Leann Hackman-Carty, EDA CEO


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