It’s been a little over a year since the pandemic began, and local businesses across the country have been battling lockdowns, new and changing regulations, and uncertainty for most of the past 13 or 14 months. While minimizing the spread of COVID-19 has been a priority, it has without a doubt been a difficult year for businesses, especially independent small businesses. While business owners and entrepreneurs have been pivoting, so have the towns and cities in which they operate. In Dollard-des-Ormeaux, located on the West Island of Montreal, Mayor Alex Bottausci shared some insights into what shifts have been made, how the city is helping businesses, and what the post-pandemic landscape of Dollard-des-Ormeaux could look like.
When The Pandemic First Reached Quebec
A year ago, Mayor Bottausci explained, the messaging from officials to businesses and individuals was largely education-based:
“At the start, no one knew what was going on. How can a business owner suddenly be expected to deal with COVID-19?”
A lot of time went into first learning about the virus and then transmitting the latest information to business owners. And not only transmitting the information but helping businesses understand and implement health protocols; for example, setting up aisles for appropriate traffic flow.
“A lot of information about the virus was sent to business owners in very formal, official French-language documents, whereas many are Anglophones [or French is their second language]. We helped the best we could with understanding, helping find masks, etc.,” said Alex Bottausci.
The past year has been a long learning curve, but after the initial wave of unknowns the pandemic brought with it, small businesses and communities have now entered a “new reality.”
“Keeping your distance, wearing masks – these things are ingrained now.”
Shifting From Education to Tangible Help
Things shifted from education about the virus to how the city could best help small businesses. The Montreal, Provincial, and Federal governments were able to come together and provide grants for business owners. Mayor Bottausci gave credit to his fellow government counterparts for their collaborative efforts on many fronts. The collaboration includes information about all available funding programs across government levels was shared with local businesses to provide as much relief as possible.
Dollard-des-Ormeaux adopted a Shop Local, Buy Local slogan, and Mayor Bottausci was keen to put the city’s money where its mouth was. For example, last year’s virtual Christmas event featured gifts from local vendors, and the focus going forward is to continue to keep it as local as possible. For Alex Bottausci it’s not just about “keep it in Quebec or the city of Montreal,” but right down to his riding of Dollard-Des-Ormeaux whenever possible.
Infrastructure projects also became a big focus as many restaurants and cafes began opening patios and expanding outdoor dining. Laws were relaxed to allow permits to be granted much more quickly, and car dealerships were permitted to fly flags advertising their businesses.
“Drastic times call for drastic measures,” said Mayor Bottausci. It was important to him and his office to pull out all the stops and allow businesses to take action that would help them survive the pandemic.
The city of Dollard-Des-Ormeaux recently launched a new website. While there are still updates coming, it’s a work in progress Mayor Bottausci is proud of.
“There is a strong business community in Dollard-Des-Ormeaux,” he said. “One of my dreams as Mayor is to really build up that community. We wanted to make sure there was a space on the site where business owners can go to find the information they need quickly and easily – information on things like permits.”
Fostering A Team Environment At City Hall Also A Priority
Mayor Bottausci also took a moment to focus on the hard work his team has been doing.
“It is easy to focus on the negative when talking about the pandemic, but the City rose to the challenge,” he said. “We’re stronger not only as individuals but as a team. We continue to give services to the community and have become more nimble in how we do that.”
“Moving forward, we have to ask ourselves: were all of these stops really necessary? I think there will be a shift back in some ways, but not totally.”
What does the city of Dollard-Des-Ormeaux look like in the future? Developers are already changing their plans by moving away from large office buildings to creating small eco-systems, with local businesses on the first floor and residential quarters above, the Mayor said.
“It creates an ecosystem where you come home from work and pick up what you need from within your own building. You can’t go from zero to 100, but you can go a little bit at a time.”
For Mayor Alex Bottausci, that shift is what it’s all about: Creating environments conducive to businesses thriving – now, and post-pandemic, too.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 10|20 Marketing has been supporting small businesses by sharing stories of business owners to shine some light on their effects and keep them in the news. If you own a business in DDO or anywhere for that matter, we’d be happy to share your story too. Just let us know you’re interested and we’ll be happy to work on your story too.