The Sarnia-Lambton COVID-19 Business and Economic Task Force consists of key business organizations that meet once per week to address issues and challenges that have been identified through extensive consultation with employers across the Sarnia-Lambton area, and to discuss and implement plans for economic recovery. Additional business organizations and municipalities are also invited to join from time-to-time to share their unique perspectives from their sector, municipality, or area of service.
The focus of the Sarnia-Lambton COVID-19 Business and Economic Task Force is to collect, coordinate and disseminate information, in a timely manner, on strategies, programs and other remedies that are available to mitigate the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the economic well-being of employers and entrepreneurs in the Sarnia-Lambton area.
Members of the Task Force are comprised of organizations with a primary mandate on economic development and/or workforce development and are business-facing. A full list of members can be viewed at the bottom of this page.
Our goal is help businesses navigate these uncertain times so that they are able to re-open and get back up to full speed once it is safe to do so, and help ensure that as many businesses as possible survive the COVID-19 crisis.
- The COVID-19 Economic Task Force will aim to support the economic interests of the Sarnia-Lambton area through a coordinated and responsive manner.
- The COVID-19 Economic Task Force will work together by seeking local input, providing information via webinars and web sites, making submissions to governments highlighting the impact on local members of the community and recommending supportive measures.
- The COVID-19 Economic Task Force will assist in the development of scenario-based recovery models and the subsequent recovery efforts.
- The COVID-19 Economic Task Force will support businesses of all sizes across the municipalities by providing information resources to help them keep going.
- The COVID-19 Economic Task Force will provide immediate and targeted business assistance to local businesses struggling to respond to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since its inception on March 25th, 2020, members of the Task Force have collaborated to achieve its strategic goals through the launch of several initiatives to help employers and employees during these unprecedented times:
- STRATEGIC PRIORITY: Support employers with critical information so they can access the information they need to navigate available program resources and make informed decisions on how best to weather the current economic circumstances. Support jobs and investment by assisting local employers in navigating information, expertise, and resources.
ACTION PLAN: Developed a Resources for Businesses section on the SLEP website. While each organization had various information posted, consensus was reached on having information consolidated and hosted on SLEP’s website. Pages were created to provide information on all the Federal, Provincial, and Local resources that are available. The information is updated regularly, and updates are provided by email to subscribers.
ACTION PLAN: Provide customized support to area businesses to identify solutions to unique concerns employers have that have not been readily addressed by announced Provincial or Federal programs.
2. STRATEGIC PRIORITY: Advocate for programs and supports based on the needs of local employers using real time, local data.
ACTION PLAN: Launched the three part Business Impact Survey series with the five member organizations as a tool that will be used to gather feedback from the business community in Sarnia-Lambton area and to better access the needs of all businesses in the area. The data gathered will aid the taskforce in decision making to support local entrepreneurs/businesses, to roll the data up regionally so that decisions makers have the most up to date data available to advocate at the provincial and federal levels.
3. STRATEGIC PRIORITY: Drive more business to local retailers, merchants, accommodations and attractions that are open or providing e-commerce or deliveries/curbside pickups within Sarnia-Lambton and make this information readily available to Sarnia-Lambton residents to help support local businesses.
ACTION PLAN: To help drive traffic to local businesses, the Shop Lambton online map was launched at no charge to local businesses across Lambton County. As a visual and interactive database of local businesses that are open, it includes contact information, hours of operation, and how businesses are providing their services. Over 300 Lambton County businesses have signed on and are represented on the Shop Lambton map.
ACTION PLAN: Launched SAFE TRAVELS Sarnia-Lambton; a retail and hospitality safety program to help businesses prepare and navigate through the various stages of COVID-19 reopening. Led by Tourism Sarnia-Lambton, through program resources and signage, the SAFE TRAVELS program helps residents and visitors identify businesses that have been trained in industry best practices around safety and COVID-19 protocols.
ACTION PLAN: Ontario Blue Coast Travel Rewards Program. The $300,000 program is built to strengthen and directly support our local accommodations sector, attractions sector, restaurant sector and retail sector. The program is led by Tourism Sarnia-Lambton, in partnership with Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario, as part of their Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) and managed by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO).
4. STRATEGIC PRIORITY: Introduce business financing programs to ensure local employers have access to critical financial support to keep businesses running and people employed.
ACTION PLAN: Emergency Support Loans. To support local business sustainability, the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation launched a program to provide Emergency Support Loans. Maximum assistance under the program is $60,000 to be used for operational costs, staff related costs, and costs related to the return to operations for those who have been closed.
ACTION PLAN: Financial Support to Local Businesses. Led by the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation in collaboration with FedDev Ontario, a Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) was launched which offers financial support for businesses across Lambton County that are unable to access federal and provincial relief funding programs or are unable to obtain a loan/credit from traditional financial institutions. A third round of this funding was announced in early February 2021 and the funding was fully subscribed by February 24th.
5. STRATEGIC PRIORITY: Provide educational resources for employers to ensure they have the necessary information to tackle COVID-19 related challenges and navigate changing markets, mandates, and by-laws.
ACTION PLAN: To assist businesses in navigating the process of the Commercial Rent Relief Fund, a webinar open to both tenants and landlords was hosted by the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The webinar reviewed the CRRF application and approval process and answered questions from participants.
ACTION PLAN: To ensure local businesses are equipped with information to protect themselves and their customers in their efforts to provide online services and sales, a webinar focusing on the basics and importance of cyber security was held in partnership with local tech companies Leereye and Layer0 Securities Inc.
ACTION PLAN: COVID-19 Workforce Solutions, a series of free weekly webinars intended to connect local employers with local experts on strategies and tactics to address COVID-19 workforce challenges. Launched in partnership between the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, the Sarnia Lambton Workforce Development Board and Lambton College, topics include: Attract Your Employees Back to Work; Employment Law Information During COVID-19; Business & Team Management in a Remote World; and Recruitment & Sourcing Talent for Harder to Fill Positions.
ACTION PLAN: Restart Sarnia-Lambton Business Toolkit, a resource guide to assist businesses through the re-opening stages of COVID-19 was led by Tourism Sarnia-Lambton. The Toolkit compiles resources to support businesses through the phased approach of re-opening while keeping employees and customers safe.
ACTION PLAN: Launched Blue Coast WOW; a retail and hospitality/accommodation customer service training program to assist businesses in training front line workers and management teams to navigate through the realities of business in those sectors in 2021 and beyond. Led by the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation and with the support of OMAFRA and the Sarnia-Lambton and Grand Bend Chambers this program will equip front line workers with an evolving skill set required to support consumers.
6. STRATEGIC PRIORITY: Keep businesses running and people employed by connecting local workers and employers.
ACTION PLAN: Developed a Work In Sarnia-Lambton (WISL) jobs board to support the local business community. Led by the Sarnia Lambton Workforce Development Board, WISL is an all-in-one interactive toolkit to match job seekers with businesses across the Sarnia-Lambton area, encourage local training and skill development resources as well as access to local employment service providers.
Regional Jobs Board – Searchable list of job opportunities found exclusively within the Sarina-Lambton region. These postings are collected by WISL from the top 23 job posting websites for the area, reducing the need to ‘hop’ between job site search engines.
Regional Jobs Map – Geolocates the job opportunities listed on the Regional Jobs Board onto a map of the Sarnia-Lambton region. In addition, built-in filters make it easy to view locations for childcare, schools, apprenticeship training, employment service providers and Ontario Disability Support Program centers to help job seekers find job opportunities and resources that best fit their needs, their lifestyle as well as their career path.
Regional Census Tool – Easy to navigate geo-referenced census population data for the various areas of Sarnia-Lambton including total population by age group, languages spoken most at home, income level and may other available metrics.
WISL Guidebook – Check out the WISL guidebook for user details and other frequently asked questions.
7. STRATEGIC PRIORITY: Prepare employers and job-seekers for the ongoing changes to supply and demand as well as consumer habits occurring as a result of COVID-19 using scenario-based planning.
ACTION PLAN: Scenario planning. The taskforce members are collaborating with the Sarnia-Lambton Workforce Development Board to assess how the supply and demand of various occupations has shifted as a result of COVID-19. This will be used to identify specific actions and initiatives that employment and training services, government, secondary and post-secondary education, and community leaders can use to plan skills and training programs for the future. The work focuses on eight sectors and considers various factors including social distancing, the normalization of working from home, reduced travel, changes to consumer demand, changes to global supply chains, and more.
ACTION PLAN: E-commerce support. The Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership launched a new program to help local businesses begin or expand online sales. Through the new program, small businesses receive a one-hour e-commerce consultation at no charge. The priority focus area is to educate businesses about their options to expand or develop an e-commerce website including such features as an online shopping cart and checkout.
8. STRATEGIC PRIORITY: Provide local businesses in the start-up or growth stages with the support and information they need to move forward with plans for opening, growth, and expansion despite pandemic challenges.
ACTION PLAN: Mentorship program grants of $5,000 each were awarded to six entrepreneurs and small businesses in the Sarnia-Lambton area, administered by the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership’s Business Enterprise Centre and funded by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade. In addition, participants receive: Personalized coaching and mentorship from a SLEP team member; Mentorship from local business leaders and entrepreneurs; and monthly (for 12 months) peer-led discussion sessions on best business practices.
9. STRATEGIC PRIORITY: On-going consultation with local businesses on their changing needs during the pandemic.
ACTION PLAN: Task Force members have expanded their focus on supporting existing employers in the Sarnia-Lambton area. Challenges that were experienced during the pandemic were similar for most sectors: reduced demand due to low consumer confidence; impacts to revenue; staffing challenges; implementing and adhering to all safety protocols; and the uncertainty of the future. All the organizations that are a part of the Task Force continue to assist business with identifying relevant resources, navigating individual issues, and identifying appropriate solutions.
More initiatives are being launched on an ongoing basis. Stay tuned for further updates.
Stephen Thompson, CEO, Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership
Shauna Carr, Economic Development Officer, Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership
Karen Richards, Economic Development Officer, Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership
Don Anderson, General Manager, Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation
Mikelle Bryson-Campbell, Interim Executive Director, Sarnia Lambton Workforce Development Board
Mark Perrin, Executive Director, Tourism Sarnia-Lambton
Allan Calvert, CEO, Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce
Susan Mills, Manager, Grand Bend & Area Chamber of Commerce
This page was updated Nov 17, 2020