Task Force releases six final recommendations to drive economic recovery

Cobourg, ON – July 22, 2020 — Today, the Northumberland Economic Recovery Task Force formally released a final report with six recommendations for helping local businesses rebuild from the significant impacts of COVID-19.

“Based on key insight shared by diverse local businesses about the very real impacts of this pandemic on their operations, the Task Force has delivered a made-in-Northumberland blueprint for reigniting the local economy,” states senior business executive and Task Force Co-Chair Brendan Cunneen. “The six final recommendations are designed to inspire collective action in response to local conditions. With work already underway in several areas, we look forward to ongoing public-private sector collaboration to build on this momentum and restore the economic health of our community.”

The Northumberland Economic Recovery Task Force was an industry-led initiative, with business owners and leaders coming together with local government and stakeholders in the early days of the pandemic to identify actions to promote economic recovery. Six Working Groups informed the work of the Task Force, collecting data and identifying key themes for action across targeted sectors including micro and small business, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, professional, and development/construction.

The six recommendations formally released today, which incorporate the three initial recommendations shared by the Task Force on June 4, include:

1) Tackle broadband deficits: High-speed internet connectivity is a linchpin to local economic recovery. Unfortunately, there are significant gaps in high-speed availability and capacity throughout Northumberland. Northumberland County is currently leading an initiative to develop a roadmap for improving access in unserved/underserved areas. The Task Force recommends partnership with the federal and provincial governments as an urgent priority, in alignment with the goals of programs such as the ‘Improving Connectivity in Ontario’ program and the ‘Connect to Innovate’ program as well as Federal infrastructure funding, to move this initiative forward.

2) Power the transition to online: Where there is adequate internet access in areas of high connectivity, support is required to help businesses transition to the online environment. An initiative is currently under development to assist small businesses in developing their digital presence. The Task Force further recommends partnership with the provincial government to facilitate business adoption of necessary tools and technology and to support capacity-building activities as well as striking collaborative relationships with existing organizations to leverage financial opportunities.

3) Fuel consumer confidence: Standardizing a requirement for personal protective equipment for consumers will enhance public safety and increase consumer confidence in visiting bricks and mortar establishments. The Task Force strongly endorses the July 7 order issued by the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDU) Medical Officer of Health requiring non-medical masks or face coverings in commercial establishments in Northumberland. The Task Force recommends ongoing education by the public and private sectors about the use of non-medical masks/face coverings in public spaces, especially when physical distancing may be a challenge.

4) Enhance the PPE supply chain: Business innovation and public-private collaboration have reinforced Ontario supply chains for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) however gaps in access and acquisition remain, putting an additional strain on local businesses. The Task Force recommends a partnership of local businesses and stakeholders based on a model from the Municipality of Clarington. Under this model, a lead organization would manage the procurement and distribution of PPE on behalf of member partners, who would benefit from bulk purchasing and an internal distribution network. A working group is in the process of being assembled to this end.

5) Invest in workforce mental health: The instability created by the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of our local work force. A focus on mental health resilience and wellness is vital for the effective reopening of our economy. The Task Force recommends ongoing and increased public sector investments in mental health resources to ensure workforce psychological health in addition to the measures being put in place to ensure workforce physical health as the economy reopens. In addition, the Task Force recommends public-private sector collaboration facilitated by Northumberland County to increase awareness of the availability of existing resources.

6) Develop targeted economic recovery actions: We have repeatedly heard about the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, youth and older workers. The Task Force recommends continued and focused support for programming which targets economic stabilization and growth across demographics that have been disproportionately disadvantaged by COVID-19.

“Northumberland County is proud to have supported this important industry initiative,” says Northumberland County Director of Economic Development, Planning and Strategic Initiatives and Task Force Co-Chair Dan Borowec. “By drawing on the vast expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of our local business community, the Task Force has identified concrete measures for achieving economic stabilization and growth in the months ahead. The County will continue to advance essential work already underway in support of the recommendations released today. By working together, we will rebuild for a thriving future.”

For full Task Force recommendations, including an overview of actions currently underway, please see the attached summary report. For an online version of this report, along with a copy of the full Task Force report, visit Northumberland.ca/ERTF.