Survey says: More than half of businesses in Ajax and Pickering believe better times ahead

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Published July 8, 2021 at 1:11 pm

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The impacts of the global pandemic are deep and far-reaching in Ajax and Pickering, with 75 per cent of respondents to the Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade’s biennial Government Relations Survey saying they suffered negative financial impacts.

But on the bright side, more than half – 55 per cent – expect business will increase during the next 12 months and just seven per cent of businesses surveyed claim they will not survive without further government intervention.

A total of 95 businesses and organizations responded to the 31-question survey this spring, representing 40 diverse types of businesses across Ajax and Pickering.

Members said restrictions and guidance for business had often been confusing or hard to find, though most felt confident in their own pandemic preparedness. The vast majority said they understand important obligations like preparing and implementing a COVID-19 safe work policy and reporting COVID-19 in the workplace.

Labour issues are at the top of the problems business faces going forward, the survey revealed, with 42 per cent of respondents sharing that a shortage of skilled workers is posing a “tremendous challenge” to the industry, with 14 per cent saying they struggle to hire general labour.

This labour shortage issue, which also topped the list of barriers to growth in 2017 and 2019, seems to be exacerbated by federal pandemic programs, like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Other employers noted that they are pressed to match compensation packages from neighbouring Toronto.

Other notable barriers to growth include access to high-speed internet, provincial red tape, and access to capital.

Notably, 22 per cent of respondents said they spent their own savings or sought personal loans to support their business this past year.

Half of all surveyed cited the removal of tolls from Highways 412 and 418 as their top transportation concern.

Analiese St. Aubin, the Manager of Corporate Relations at Ontario Power Generation and the Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade President, said the information gleaned from the survey will guide the Board’s advocacy work for the next two years.

“Our members have clearly pointed to the most pressing challenges facing our business community.”

Despite those challenges, more than half of respondents expect their business to increase over the next 12 months, and 39 per cent expect their capital expenditures will go up.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the board of trade has been working hard to keep members informed of changing policy and restrictions, and to communicate our members’ struggles to stakeholders at the local, provincial and federal level,” said Nicole Gibson, Executive Director of the Board.

Gibson also said they have worked hard to provide education opportunities, promote shop local campaigns like #ShopInDurham and in delivering free rapid screening kits to businesses, as well as bringing members “face-to-face” with Durham’s medical officer of health, Ontario’s finance minister, local mayors, and the Chair of Durham Region.

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