PACE encourages local small and medium sized enterprises to reach out for assistance programs
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Sioux Lookout’s economy could benefit from some untapped potential that may exist for local businesses through programs offered by Patricia Area Community Endeavours Inc. (PACE), shared Sioux Lookout Municipal councillor and PACE Board member John Bath.
“I find that Sioux Lookout is not very actively pursuing the products that are available,” said Bath. He believes that part of the reason could be lack of continuous physical presence of PACE in Sioux Lookout or limited demand for PACE programs in the area.
PACE Executive Director Caroline Goulding said, “It is true that businesses in Sioux Lookout do not always access our programs to the same degree as other communities in our catchment. The visibility that John mentioned can be a factor as can the program itself and whether or not it is needed by businesses in Sioux Lookout. The pandemic has meant that we cannot be physically present in the community, although staff have participated in a number of virtual meetings over the past year. Once the pandemic is over, staff have plans to visit in person.”
PACE’s website states that it is committed to promoting economic growth within the Patricia Region of Northwestern Ontario. It aims to encourage local community and economic development through provision of small business loans, non-profit funding, counseling and support to entrepreneurs and community groups.
“We do business counselling for small and medium sized enterprises. We offer small loans to businesses that can’t access financing through traditional lending institutions, like the banks and credit unions. We also do community economic development projects…to strengthen economic drivers within a community, and to lead to more successful outcomes,” Goulding commented.
Goulding said that PACE is an organization under the Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC). She explained that all CFDC organizations across Ontario help to roll out the federal Regional Relief in Recovery Funding (RRRF), which according to the Government of Canada’s website, is a $2 billion liquidity assistance lifeline for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that have been rejected by or were unable to access other federal pandemic support programs, or that continue to have liquidity needs. Goulding said that PACE loaned out $1.2 million dollars in a year’s time, within their catchment area.
Goulding shared that for their five most recent programs, Sioux Lookout accounted for a quarter to a third of all approved applications. She added that as of the last annual report from PACE, investments in Sioux Lookout businesses represented 20 percent of their overall portfolio.
Goulding said that some of their past programs included reimbursement for the purchase of PPE, support not for profits, a non-repayable contribution that covered COVID-19 modifications that businesses had to make to their premises in order to be able to operate in accordance with the health and safety regulations set up by the province. She added, “There was an additional non-repayable contribution that reimbursed businesses the costs of hiring professional services related to COVID-19, for instance hiring a website designer.”
Goulding shared, “I know a lot of businesses aren’t keen on another type of loan and are really looking for grant programs. But, I think that with the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund loans, we were able to help businesses weather some of the worst parts of the previous lockdown.”
Goulding shared, “The COVID-19 Safety Protocol Project has been extended. It will reimburse businesses up to $5,000 for costs related to making permanent modifications to their business due to COVID-19. Applications are approved on a first come, first serve basis. Again, John (Bath) and I would like to strongly encourage any businesses in Sioux Lookout who have needed to make permanent changes to their business to reach out. Copies of the application are available on our website. We also have a new program that will subsidize the cost of purchasing remote access technology.”
PACE encourages those interested in availing their services or for further information to reach out at (807) 221-3293, or visit their website at pace-cf.on.ca, and apply.
PACE serves a range of communities, including Sioux Lookout, Dryden, Eagle Lake First Nation, Ignace, Lac Seul First Nation, Machin, Pickle Lake, Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, and all areas located in between.