Opinion: Business community need council’s attention

By Mike Williscraft

There is not going a single thing negative about Grimsby Council this week. Not because there was not material stemming from their near-four-hour session on Monday night.

There were a few visible warts but there were also signs – including a rate olive branch extended by Coun. Randy Vaine – of some cooperation, which was precious to behold.

And that is no joke. Genuine teamwork and an interest in combining thoughts to achieve a common good has been so infrequent it was great to see an inkling of that unfold.

I beg members of council to continue on that path. It is a good look for them and one for which Grimsby residents are desperate.

Now, the focus of this space this week is us, NewsNow, and the business community as a whole.

Obviously, my whole newspaper exists thanks to the ongoing and dedicated support of about 400 Niagara West businesses who keep our lights on and the presses running each week. To say I am biased in their favour would be like saying COVID-19 is posing a little problem.

But set NewsNow aside for a moment. I could blow away in a stiff wind and the sun would come up and time would march on.

What would make a huge difference is if we lose 25 or 35 per cent of our retail, restaurant and service providers.

Part of the discussion at Grimsby council regarded the local business climate.

In a word, it’s harsh.

Those who are legislated to be closed have had their livelihoods severed. Many of those who can stay open are greatly limited by the “stay home” order.

Councillors did not seem to grasp the gravity of the situation. There was some sympathetic sentiment, but no meat with the potatoes.

When the rubber was beginning to hit the road, Coun. Vaine focused on tax relief for residential properties taking away from the debate underway. Of course the financial impacts of COVID-19 are felt by all in one form or another. What Coun. Vaine needs to consider is the provincial and federal governments have multiple programs and mechanisms in place to provide financial relief for individuals.

On that topic, he was quite right when he attempted to quote a comment from my personal Facebook page made recently where I noted that council had limited options to help either residential or commercial/industrial interests with tax relief. They had already pushed back deadlines and voted to forgive late fees and interest. What was misleading was stating that my position was made as president of Downtown Improvement Area board president.

While the latter is fact, I made a general comment in support of the measure taken by council, but it was a personal view, certainly not a voted on and approved view of the board, which I noted to Coun. Vain in a text.

In fact, both myself and board of directors would further beg council to consider any possible relief, program or economic measure to help the business community survive this financial onslaught.

If you think you’re a bit raw from being parked in your home for the last couple of weeks, good reader, many business people are also stuck in their homes and the realization they may not have a business to go back to is a serious consideration.

What council, Grimsby and everyone else, has to remember is – aside from commercial/industrial properties being taxed at a rate 2-3 higher, is just how much the business community drives the town.

There is not and event, an organization, a cause which does not exist thanks to the ongoing generosity of the business community.

Virtually every team in every sport in every community is sponsored by a local business. Each spring, when making rounds at the local car dealers, golf tournaments come up. They get about 100 requests for prize table fare annually.

Every fundraiser that goes down, has businesses from Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln front and centre time and time again – and we have not gotten to jobs!!

Very few ask for anything, ever. Most give willingly and without reservation because they appreciate being part of these great small communities we service and they want to continue to give back.

When I note I am open to begging council, I do not mean for me. If I go, that is just the way the cookie crumbles, but the business community needs council’s undivided attention right now.

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