Burlington’s business support organizations come together as Team Burlington to support businesses through COVID-19


News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

April 3, 2020



Some very tough times ahead for the hospitality and retail sectors of the Burlington economy.

Lakeshore looking east to Brant north side

These days even the tables and chairs are gone.

No business thus no revenue – with expenses that are basic – with rent being the biggest.

The Burlington Chamber of Commerce, Burlington Economic Development, Burlington Downtown Business Association, Aldershot Village BIA, and Tourism Burlington have joined forces to offer support and help Burlington’s Business community navigate the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Anita Cassidy

Anita Cassidy, Executive Director of Burlington Economic Development.

While the Team Burlington name is not new, COVID-19 has renewed the group’s collaborative mission to keep the business community informed and ensure relevant and timely information is distributed as soon as it becomes available. “Right now, it’s about pooling resources for the collective benefit of the business community,” explained Anita Cassidy, Executive Director of Burlington Economic Development. “That means daily scrum meetings, sharing information, engaging subject matter experts and government officials, and asking the tough questions to ensure we know what businesses need now, and what they’ll need in the future to come out strong on the other side.”

About the best the Team is going to be able to provide is sympathy – there isn’t much they can do. Hydro will be low – the lights aren’t turned on; the city is creating some breaks on the tax side and I am sure that the Team will talk to landlords, and yes, lean on them a little but how much of the support has to come from the owners of the properties?

The first thing Team Burlington did to support businesses during COVID-19 was launch a one-stop-shop resource for businesses to turn to for information, resources and tools. With so much information rolling out every day, the website, which is hosted on burlingtonchamber.com, aims to provide the latest government updates, toolkits, support programs, economic relief information and resources all in place.

Carla Nells CoC

Carla Nell, President and CEO of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce

Carla Nell, President and CEO of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce also spoke to the power of working together. “Our membership already trusts that we’ll take a strong stance to advocate for their interests. Through this team approach, we’ll be able to do even more and extend our reach further to ensure all businesses of all sizes and industries feel supported and heard during these difficult times, and to position them for recovery in the longer term.”

Team Burlington is planning a series of COVID-19 virtual business support forums to give business leaders the opportunity to ask questions and hear from subject matter experts and key government officials at the local and regional levels, as well as Provincial and Federal representatives.

The available information is on the Chamber of Commerce web site.

The global COVID-19 pandemic is putting substantial pressure on the Burlington business community. Mandatory closures, necessary social distancing measures, layoffs and supply chain disruptions are putting immense pressure on businesses of all sizes. However, it is Team Burlington’s hope that through communication, advocacy, and the right relief measures, Burlington’s business community will remain steadfast in its short-term and long-term recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

Bold statements – the reality is that some in the hospitality and retails sectors are going to end up closing their doors. On Friday, we will earn what the province thinks the immediate and medium term infection results are and what the projections look like.

The Premier has already said the news is not going to be easy to accept.

And if, for reasons that are not yet fully understood, the state of near total lock-down extends into the fall – the economic devastation will be severe.

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3 comments to Burlington’s business support organizations come together as Team Burlington to support businesses through COVID-19

  • Tom Muir

    I think that the landlords, mortgage holders and assorted creditors are going to have to realize that their properties are now not usable at almost any economic price. I say they all need to share in the big hit that is a gathering storm and it really needs to be a we are all in it together agreement.

    Landlords cannot just expect that they are entitled to all of the rent due because as owners it is their responsibility to provide usable space and they cannot do this because the impacts of the virus are also impacting what their property can be used for.

    It should also be obvious, or will become so soon, that given the indefinite time of the life and death situation for public health they will not be able to provide said usable space for a longer period than many of their business lease holders can manage and still be viable.

    Restaurants for example are largely closed, and I heard that small establishments can last maybe 4 weeks or 5, and still may be able to return to a workable business if they and their staff can manage to survive and be available to rejoin. The big cost of rent or mortgages not offset by any business income needs to be shared for this to happen.

    It cannot be realistically assumed that government policy to just let everything open is an option – that will just restart the acceleration of disease. Until human transmission is reduced to where the number of new cases daily is zero for 14 days at least, we cannot even begin to try and back up.

    My objective is that we need every effort we can muster to help ourselves protect and preserve what we can so that we have some semblance of a viable local economy to go back to. Make no mistake that this virus will impose long-lasting structural and behavioral changes on the economy and society.

    These are not anything like normal business conditions – we have never, ever, experienced the times we are really just entering into, so all bets are off. All business is impacted with many closed at the same time, so without a self rescue plan there will be a lot of failures and the losses all around will flow freely.

    What I think is needed is a city/business led public task force charged with planning how the financial and economic damage can be shared all around so as to rescue and save what can be saved of what we have as a functioning local economy and business community structure. We need to know something of the financial balances needed by various business models in order to survive.

    Without such a successful plan chances are that tipping points will be reached and everyone in the city, residents, business owners, property owners, and so on, will suffer what may be unimaginable right now. It obviously was not imagined a month or so ago.

    The economic damage is already very deep, and slowly rippling out small fractures because of the direct, indirect, and induced economic multiplier effects.This will only get worse.

    However, to save what can be saved in business economy, and structure, cannot be left to the collective of front-line business proprietors to bear alone because they cannot do this for an indefinite period of time.

    We also need to realize that this situation is not going to go back to the previous reality or what we knew as “normalcy” any time soon, if ever.

    In a pandemic, the virus is here to stay everywhere on earth, and, given its novelty, lethal nature, and transmission pathway chains determined largely by human proximity and social mixing, is an existential game changer.

    • Stephen White

      You are absolutely right Tom! This pandemic is going to have a seismic impact upon Canada’s economy. Piecemeal solutions and bandages aren’t going to offer a credible solution on how to re-build and sustain businesses.

      A public/private sector task force would be a useful start. My concern is that our business community in Burlington as reflected by the C of C and other organizations really aren’t up to the task. We need radical solutions, not networking events and the like, and we need people who can think outside the box and aren’t constrained by ideology.

      Nationally, we need a new economic development strategy to get businesses going and get people employed. The National Post this morning estimated the unemployment rate will hit 11%. I think that is wildly optimistic.

      The federal government needs to take dramatic steps now to stop profiteering and gouging of consumers. Why Canadians are paying 20%+ on credit card payments when the BOC rate is less than 1% is beyond disgraceful. Evictions and foreclosures should be eliminated for two years. All CEO’s, senior executives and directors of publicly traded companies in Canada should be mandated to donate their bonuses and that portion of their salaries over $500K to the government for redistribution. Salaries and bonuses of CEO’s and executives should be capped at $500K. And the banks, telecoms and insurance companies should be told to repatriate those call centre jobs back to Canada…now!

  • Stephen White

    Sorry but a “renewed collaborative mission” and “pooling resources” aren’t going to help local businesses one iota. These are all nice “make work” projects for association executives with limited imagination and uninspiring leadership.

    Let’s get serious here. This crisis is going to be with us for six months, at least. Life isn’t going to be back to normal anytime soon. So, let’s see some creative ideas, imagination and most importantly, leadership.

    To start with, let’s disband all of these marginal business associations and create one governing body that speaks with singular authority throughout the community. We don’t need multiple advocacy organizations and different spokespeople. This is wasted time and energy. Second, let’s pool advertising and promotional resources and think creatively on how we can promote local businesses and get residents to buy local, not just now but in the future. Third, the hospitals are in dire need of medical supplies and equipment. Which businesses in the community have the technology, skilled workers and resources to make masks, gowns, PPE’s, ventilators, sanitary disinfectant, etc.? Let’s find out and leverage these opportunities to fill a palpable need, and let’s lobby Ottawa to set up the necessary production infrastructure.

    Finally, we’ve watched in this country over the last twenty years as manufacturing and service jobs have migrated to South-East Asia and beyond. Every time you call a call centre now you end up speaking with someone in Manila, Mexico City, El Salvador, etc. Enough! These jobs need to come back to Canada now to be filled by displaced Canadian workers. Companies like Bell need to be told in clear and definitive terms to shift these jobs back to Canada or face massive tax increases. Charity begins at home.

    Finally, please spare us all these tiresome bromides about “we’re in this all together” and “stay strong”. To quote the late Richard Nixon: “When the going gets tough the tough get going”. So, get going, and start generating some creative ideas instead of empty space.