As we began looking to what a future post-COVID would look like, the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with York University, launched the Accelerate Business Recovery Virtual Hub to help local businesses adapt to a rapidly changing landscape and prepare for any number of new normals.
Providing local businesses with free consultation with experts in a wide variety of fields, along with virtual instruction from York’s Schulich School of Business, the Hub has gone from strength to strength – and thanks to a provincial grant announced last week by Deputy Premier Christine Elliott, the Hub is ready to expand its services to all York Region businesses.
The province has invested $463,500 to expand the program.
“We created this Hub specific to our members’ needs and struggles,” said Sandra Ferri, president and CEO of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, at Friday’s announcement held at the Royal Venetian Mansion on Industrial Parkway South. “The new economic climate requires businesses to rethink their business models from operations, to marketing, to finance. This Hub is a response to their call for support.
“It is imperative that we created this Hub as a self-guided resource so that business owners can work around their hours of operation while learning how to improve their management skills.”
Ferri was joined at Friday’s announcement by MPP Elliott, alongside Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MPP Michael Parsa, Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas, and Councillor Gilliland. MPPs and mayor each took the opportunity to highlight the struggles local businesses have faced during COVID-19 and how the Hub has helped.
“The Hub supports the development and growth of businesses by providing personalized training, development and mentorship for entrepreneurs and business owners,” said Elliott. “Up to 350 people will receive training using a series of webinars, recorded sessions and consultation sessions. They will also benefit from an online resource centre for one-on-one mentorship.
“We have made significant progress in our fight against COVID-19 and as we gradually and cautiously lift all remaining public health and workplace safety measures, it is critical that businesses create jobs and enable economic growth so that our communities are positioned to come back stronger than ever before. Thank you to the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and everyone who collaborated on this project. With partners like you and the innovative expertise and dedication you all bring to the table, our government is helping people in Aurora, Newmarket and across York Region get back on their feet.”
Added Parsa: “[The Hub] will help current and future business owners build off their existing knowledge and provide them with the tools they need to succeed, grow and recover. Business owners can use this platform to learn more about digital marketing, strategic planning and financial planning through workshops and one-on-one meetings. This funding is yet another commitment we have made to support businesses across the province and to help them adapt to their changing landscape created by this pandemic.”
Small business, he said, accounts for 98 per cent of total business in Ontario, with small business owners employing over three million Ontarians.
“We can see the impact small business owners have right here in Aurora where 84 per cent of the 220 registered companies are small businesses who employ thousands of Ontarians, many local residents in Aurora,” he concluded. “It is our turn to return the favour and give back to all of them to… all those on the frontlines who kept their doors open to serve, all the frontlines serving other people.”
The Town of Aurora was also integral in the development of the Accelerate Business Recovery Virtual Hub. Springing into action at the start of the pandemic with the establishment of the town’s Business Continuity Task Force, Mayor Mrakas said the town has seen businesses work together over the last 20 months to support one another through this difficult time.
“[They have] strengthened their offerings to consumers to take a different approach at doing regular business,” he said. “Businesses have had to pivot and reimagine their operations throughout the pandemic as new information continually emerged and restrictions changed. I am proud of all our local businesses in our town for their perseverance, determination and innovative thinking. You are all an inspiration. The Business Recovery Hub will provide even further support to our local businesses and all businesses in York Region. In a virtual environment, businesses will be able to access information that will help them accelerate their business growth. This is just another example of how the chamber has thought outside the box to support our businesses and help them continue to flourish. The support of the Employment Ontario was also key to bringing this initiative to life and we are thankful for their support.
“I am excited to see the future positive implications of this new program and the added benefits for businesses in Aurora.”
Brock Weir is a federally funded Local Journalism Initiative reporter at The Auroran