In the beginning of May, 2016 a wildfire swept through the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) including the City of Fort McMurray. Insurance companies estimate this wildfire is the costliest disaster in Canadian history.
In disasters such as this, emergency responders have a critical role in managing the crisis and attending to the physical needs of the people in the region, it is important to note that economic developers also have a critical role in economic and business recovery in a disaster. By helping to get businesses back on their feet, livelihoods are restored, and business and economic recovery efforts are accelerated.
EDA stepped in during this crisis and using its Economic Disaster Recovery Program (EDRP) as a template, began to provide additional leadership and experience the RMWB needed to assist them in their business and economic recovery efforts.
Phase One: Wood Buffalo Business Recovery Hotline
On May 30, 2016, the first step in their business recovery efforts was taken. EDA established the Wood Buffalo Business Recovery Hotline in Calgary, Alberta. The Hotline was designed to register small businesses, gather information about their immediate needs and provide access to various resources, including providing emergency financial relief on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross. The Hotline was developed and operated by EDA, in close collaboration with the RMWB. This was phase one of an overall strategy to restore the economy in the region and it was a huge success.
At the end of August 2016, over 4000 small businesses were registered at the hotline, with 3,496 of them eligible to receive $1000 each in emergency financial aid from the Canadian Red Cross.
Phase Two: Economic Opportunity Assessment Team
EDA is pleased to be able to offer additional assistance to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) Economic Development department with their ongoing business and economic recovery efforts after the devastating wildfire that swept through the region in May.
During the third week of January, EDA will be leading a 10-member Economic Opportunity Assessment Team to Fort McMurray. Comprised of volunteer economic development experts from the U.S. and Canada, this team will be conducting a qualitative assessment and unbiased review of the key economic challenges the RMWB is facing; as well as identifying where opportunities may exist to improve the economic outlook moving forward.
In disasters such as this, economic developers have a critical role in economic and business recovery. By helping to get businesses back on their feet, livelihoods are restored, and business and economic recovery efforts are accelerated.
All of the team members are looking forward assisting the RMWB in this important step in its economic recovery.
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