COCHRANE— The Town of Cochrane is looking to the future and planning ways to support the local economy during the COVID-19 pandemic and when public health measures are lifted.
Respond, rebuild and recover has been a driving force in the Towns response to the outbreak, said mayor Jeff Genung at the council meeting Tuesday (April 14) evening.
“This is something that obviously none us planned, prepared or ran for council on, is to be managing our way through a pandemic,” Genung said. “The way through it is going to be finding innovative solutions.”
Kickstarting the local economy, keeping critical services working, communication and preventing the spread of the virus to protect the health of Cochranites has been a key concern for council during the pandemic, said interim chief administrative officer Drew Hyndman.
These objectives have served to guide the Town’s response to the virus.
“This is a three-stage approach to COVID-19,” Hyndman said. “It’s to respond, assist our local residents and businesses in accessing health care and financial assistants, and to rebuild is to support businesses as they reopen and employees as they return to work and residents as they return to their normal day-to-day lives.”
To support these objectives the Town will be establishing an Economic Recovery Task Force and a Social Recovery Task Force. Genung added that if these task forces prove effective may be kept past the pandemic as a way to communicate and work within the community.
Each task force will have a maximum of eight members and will collaborate with representatives from major organizations in Cochrane.
The newly established groups will focus on a long term commitment to helping the local economy, businesses and families recover from the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Economic Task Force will specifically support the business community, Genung said, adding that there is room to explore additional ways Cochrane residents can benefit from support during the recovery.
Councillor Marni Fedeyko called on the task forces to be creative and focus on collaboration within the community. She added it will be essential to see partnerships between businesses, organizations and groups to find success in the future.
“It’s not all about the bottom line of the dollar it’s about who we are going succeed much further into the future,” Fedeyko said. “I think we’re going to need to have some really creative ways of looking at it.”
Fedeyko stressed that it will be critical to listen to business leaders in Cochrane to understand the challenges they face due to COVID-19 and outside of the virus.
“I really think this a good direction to go,” said Coun. Tara McFadden. She added that an emphasis needs to be placed on planning for the future economy of Cochrane outside of the economic recession created by COVID-19.
Council is working to establish the task forces as soon as possible so preparations can begin for relaunching the economy when the pandemic comes to an end.
Genung added that the province has predicted that the Alberta economy will experience a deep recession for about 18-months. He said that because of this an emphasis needs to be placed on positive opportunities that can be found and acted upon in the community—This will include “shovel-ready” projects that can be supported by the municipality and the province.
“As we work through this pandemic we need to continue to have a focus on not just what our current state is, because I think we’re doing a good job of flattening the curve and staying home, being kind and saving lives, but I would like us to start to focus on our future,” Genung said. “There will be a day when we get through this.”