In cooperation with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Economy, Keewatin Career Development Corporation (KCDC) conducted a survey on the impact of this year’s wildfires on La Ronge and area businesses.
The survey ran between Jul. 27 and Aug. 7. Fifty-one businesses in La Ronge, Lac La Ronge Indian Band, and Air Ronge were surveyed out of a potential 219.
The 27-question survey was answered by retail, utilities, media and construction businesses, along with businesses from other sectors.
The survey showed this summer’s wildfires and evacuations had a high impact on the businesses of the tri-communities. More than 80 per cent of the businesses surveyed were closed during the evacuation, and 48 per cent said the impact on their business was severe.
KCDC CEO Randy Johns said more than 90 per cent of the businesses reported the disruption affected their viability.
“I was surprised that many businesses said it,” Johns remarked. “Although I thought it would be an impact, I didn’t know it would be that high.”
“I think the business community is pretty resilient and it will recover, but it hit them in some of the pocket books, some got behind in their work, some lost customers.”
In terms of long-term impacts, many businesses left comments saying that they’ve had to delay their grand openings, cancel plans to expand, and even consider selling the business altogether.
However, about 25 per cent of business responded that the fire would have no impact to their business plans.
KCDC, located in La Ronge, was also evacuated during the fires. Johns said the idea of a survey came from their own experiences of working while being evacuated.
“While we were still evacuated we were talking with different groups about what the impact of the fire and evacuation would be on the community in general. The impact on businesses was one of the topics that we started talking about,” said Johns.
KCDC has provided the results along with recommendations to the ministry, the chamber of commerce, and to the leaders of the tri-communities.
Businesses indicated that their biggest need was for insurance services – either clarification on their policy, or the availability of insurance rates after the fires.
“We’d be willing to help organize a session for businesses … the biggest one was the insurance concerns, and also the assistance with business planning – how to plan, how to deal with this or cope with new realities that come as a result with going through this experience.”
When asked if they had anything to add, 10 business commented on the level of displeasure with the evacuation process with some saying, “mandatory evacuation needs a second look,” and “hope that Sask. Environment will review policy on response process.”
A number of businesses also commented that they were appreciative of the survey.
“They just appreciate that somebody called, you know? Small businesses, they have their nose to the grindstone all the time and it’s not very often that somebody asks how they are doing,” said Johns.
The survey results are also available online here.
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