Hundreds of jobs created or maintained through HCDC program, staff reports

By Jenn Watt

Over the last fiscal year, and in the months since the coronavirus pandemic began, Haliburton County Development Corporation has been making funding available to the county’s business community with hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing through multiple programs.

On Oct. 7, those who tuned in to the annual general meeting held on Zoom heard about the loan and grant programs HCDC administers as well as money made available to combat the economic pressure of the pandemic.
Twenty-one loans were approved through the HCDC COVID Loans Program, with $932,500 distributed.

“HCDC quickly moved into action and created a COVID loans program similar to the flood relief program we provided [in 2017]. Loans were offered at zero per cent [interest] up to $25,000 with deferred payments for the first three months,” Patti Tallman, executive director, said.
For the businesses supported by the COVID-19 loans program, 110 employees were laid off, while 127.5 employees who were employed at the time the loans were received kept their jobs.

HCDC also administered the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, which received FedDev capitalization of $994,889. Twenty-six loans through that fund were approved, worth $818,000. Sixty-one employees remained employed, while 175 were laid off from the total employee count of 228 before COVID-19 for those businesses. There are three pending approvals for $105,000.
Tallman said the federal government had just announced another $560,000 for Haliburton County through this loans program.
“So that’s a total injection, since May, a capitalization of $1,554,889. Thank you to FedDev for their support and helping us help our businesses and rural communities in Haliburton County,” she said.

Regarding their typical annual activities, loans officer Sara Joanu gave an update of the corporation’s impact.
“In 2019, HCDC approved 60 loans and disbursed $4,685,000, 350 jobs were created and maintained within the year, and in 2020, we approved 59 loans to businesses and disbursed just over $3.7 million, 285 jobs were created and maintained,” Joanu said, noting that although the amount of money given out this year was less than in 2019, they still met their goal of $3.5 million of disbursed dollars.

Nearly 40 per cent of those receiving loans from HCDC since the corporation’s inception were “business services,” which includes businesses such as restaurants, landscaping, hair salons, accounting and auto repair. Retail made up about 18 per cent, followed by construction, manufacturing, tourism, and forestry.

Autumn Wilson, program and operations coordinator, updated the group on the grants programs and what funding has accomplished in the community. The Local Initiatives Program had 15 approved applications last year with 103 partners, disbursing about $55,000. The list of initiatives benefiting includes a housing summit, seniors education day, trail development, food forum, youth sailing program, snowmobile association development, Minden Pride Week, and The Studio Tour rebranding. A full list is available on the HCDC website.

The Business Expansion and Innovation Program approved 24 applications in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, creating 32 jobs and maintaining 75. Money helped businesses expand into new markets and improve branding, purchase new equipment and undergo training.
Funding for innovation provided through FedDev was also distributed through the Eastern Ontario Rural Innovation Initiative with $750,000 available over two years. Ten projects were approved in the last year, creating or maintaining 106 jobs.

Boshkung Brewing was one of the local businesses benefiting from the innovation dollars, using funds to modernize and increase production and create operational efficiencies, Wilson told attendees. “Through this project, they were able to create new products and increase their sales by 200 per cent,” she said.

Fleming College’s wastewater testing site in Minden accessed innovation funding “to accelerate the commercialization of wastewater treatment technologies,” purchasing equipment and materials.

The final presentation was made by consultant Jim Blake, who highlighted the work of the business incubator, which currently has two clients: Highland Technical, an engineering firm; and Haliburton Guitar Studio, which offers lessons, music production, instrument repair and event planning.
Incubator businesses benefit from affordable office space in the building next to the Dysart et al town hall (the former Haliburton library), broadband internet access, mentoring and meeting space.