Cities in the Time of COVID-19: What Are the Impacts on Local Economies?

Featuring Mark Garner, CEO and Executive Director, Downtown Yonge BIA; Bruce Katz, Director, Nowak Metro Finance Lab, Drexel University; Mary Moran, President & CEO, Calgary Economic Development; Patrick Sullivan, President & CEO, Halifax Chamber of Commerce; and Karen Wong, Co-founder & CEO, TakuLabs

5 Key
Takeaways

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Wanted: small business ecology

If, as Jane Jacobs said, the “triumph of cities is the small,” the unfettered rise of big box stores during COVID-19 will be at the expense of local businesses and the downtowns they animate. To avoid a very long and painful recovery for local economies, a new set of tools is required, aimed at levelling the retail playing field. For example: master tenancies, new financial products and ownership models – all with protections, efficiencies and financial benefits built- in, in return for the critically important social, cultural and economic benefits they provide to the commons.

2. Back to school

Every effort is required to train the workforce for future skills, especially digital. Businesses need assistance and training on best practices. “We have so many things we need to unlearn – something as simple as handing somebody a receipt or whether or not to allow contactless tap on your pin pad,.” one panelist noted. Post-COVID, the businesses who “up” their digital game will be set up for success as they can build their existing revenue stream with supplemental, on-line income. It will also be about connectedness: “I’m not aiming to be 5G ready, I want to be 10G,” another panelist said.

3. Zoning to the rescue!

As businesses find ways to adapt to the “new normal,” planners can play a role in adapting regulations to respond to their needs. For example, expediting rezoning requests for businesses that need to shift from retail to functioning as a distribution centre.

4. It’s the cost of doing business

Most small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) operate with little to no buffer to weather economic shocks.  This is due, in large part, to the proportionally “staggering costs” that independent businesses shoulder – such as local property taxes. “We have to find a way to sustain the small independent – reduce their costs of doing business so they can put money back into the economy,” one panelist recommended. Another suggested the implementation of a program where building owners and leasees enter a profit-sharing agreement, so that fees go up as they become more successful.

5. From vacancy to vibrancy

Metrics used to assess the health of a downtown typically focus on vacancy rates. But this panel wanted to shift the focus to “vibrancy rates.” A downtown with high occupancy, but where the sidewalks roll up at 5 pm, does not make a resilient economy make. The recovery of the local economy must focus on a diversity of businesses – office, retail, entertainment, residencies and gathering places – each playing a crucial and equal role in a robust economy, and each requiring specific tools to ensure their resilience.

Full Panel
Transcript

Note to readers:  This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to events@canurb.org with “transcription” in the subject line.  

Mary Rowe [00:00:12] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe. Welcome to City Talk. Hope you had a nice, long weekend, a bit of a break, a bit of a respite, some virtual zoom time with family members and an opportunity to take a bit of a pause and reflect a bit. And now we’re back Monday morning, in Calgary, Monday afternoon in the Eastern Time Zone. And were very pleased to have folks joining us today to talk about something really important. What’s the recovery of local economies going to look like? What are they currently challenged by? CUI is in the connective tissue business. These are what these sessions are about – helping us try to make some sense out of what’s going on. We’re trying to focus specifically and what people are seeing now, what they’re experiencing in particular sectors, particular aspects of urban life, and to really share information across the country in this case. We have someone in the US joining us as well as to inform how we’re coping with the ways in which we’re responding. And then what are the implications for the short, medium and longer term.

Mary Rowe [00:01:11] And we put up some sites: City Share Canada.ca, and this is now CityTalkCanada.ca to try to help us decipher this, try to figure this out with lots and lots of partners and volunteers from across the country. If you have high bandwidth and you have some time in your day to help us populate those sites, please e-mail us at Covidresponse@canurb.org. And we’d be happy to have 30 minutes of your time each day to help us continue to populate these learning platforms. I’m in Toronto. We have people participating from other places. But I’m just going to acknowledge in terms of where this broadcast is originating from. We are in the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, the Chippewa, the Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples and are now home here to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples from across Turtle Island. We also acknowledge that the Toronto area, in particular, is covered by Treaty 13 signed by the Mississaugas of the Credit and the Williams Treaty signed with multiple Annishnabec Nations. And we are very cognizant that we speak. Each of us speaks from a place. It really is about place and how we strengthen place. And we have long, long histories and traditions of place that we’re trying to reconcile with as we go through this extraordinarily challenging time. So it’s an all hands on deck moment. And I want to just say at the outset, that we recognize, that we are very aware that there are thousands and thousands of people across Canada, in the United States and around the world who are engaged in first response. And they are in emergency mode. They are trying to save lives. And we are very aware that is not what this conversation is about. But we want to be supportive and aware that many, many folks are engaged in that. And this is a kind of parallel activity to just help those of us observing, to try to learn as much as we possibly can in terms of what is next for our lives. So the conversations are practical. They’re focusing on specifics. And as I suggest, they’re going to be on the immediate term, maybe two or three months out to the end of the summer and then longer term. And we’re really focusing on what’s working, what’s not and what’s next in particular, what are we seeing? And this conversation happens here. It also happens on a chat box. And so we’d encourage all participants to feel free to chat away. These have been very rich places for the discourse in the last several sessions that we’ve done of these. And we would encourage you to send your comments, not just to all panelists, send it to everyone so everyone can see them. I’m monitoring the chatbox and I have colleagues monitoring as well. And we’ll feed your comments and questions into the group on the stage here on the screen so that they’re informed as well. But please feel free to have a go. And also a little disclaimer here. Unlike Las Vegas, as I said, what goes on the chat box stays on the chat box. So think, think before you push send because it’s on there for perpetuity. Can’t take down. We learned this and we are archiving all the chats and we are also keeping the videos and the audios of these things. And we’ve already posted some from last week up on canurb.org/citytalk. You can see them all there. And we think that there’s a rich discourse that we want to continue to harvest as I suggested. So this is the first step. And I really appreciate my colleagues coming in this morning in the midday to talk with us. Everyone here is participating as an individual. They may work for a public entity. They may have clients that are public entities or private entities. But just to be clear, we’re all here talking as individuals and muddling through as best we can in terms of trying to make sense of what’s going on. We’re recording this. As you can see, we’ve been encouraging people to use Twitter if you’d like, hashtag city talk. And I’m going to start.

Mary Rowe [00:05:04] So joining us from not quite coast to coast. To mid country, we have Bruce Katz, where again, we’re not putting out detailed bios, you can look on the chat and you can Google everybody here. You can go there and get lots. And Bruce Katz, who I think is now in Washington today. Patrick Sullivan, who’s in Halifax with that fabulous Zoom background that somebody has for you. Very impressive. Mark Warner, who is with the downtown Yonge Street BIA in Toronto. Mary Moran, who’s the president and CEO of the Calgary Economic Development Corp. Hey, Mary, good to see you. Glad you’re having your morning coffee with us. Manager Karen Leong, who has been way ahead of this curve in terms of making the transition to digital and is going to talk to us about what are the digital opportunities for economies so local businesses and economies.

Mary Rowe [00:05:53] So I’m going to start with you, Bruce, as our invited American. . You know, I’ve had some questions as we’ve been starting here about what is a local economy. So I think many of us in the city building business have been arguing for a long time that economies are fundamentally urban things. Sixty five percent of the Canadian GDP comes out of five metro areas. But why don’t you start us off in terms of your understanding of the local economy and what you’re really observing and where you think we need to go, where metro regions need to go to, to keep these local economies vibrant. Over to you.

Bruce Katz [00:06:28] Well, thanks Mary and welcome to everyone. Obviously, cities and metropolitan areas and their economies are the organizing unit of the global economy and they’re complex organisms. So when you think about the impact of this economic shutdown on cities and metros, you’ve got to look at different facets, different sectors, different clusters, anchor institutions as the meds for professional services, other services, manufacturing, innovation, logistics and so forth. There has been an intense focus in the United States on the impact of small business and particularly small businesses in the hospitality sectors. So think Main Street businesses, downtowns, commerce main streets and small suburban jurisdictions. They are shut down in many parts of the US. Many of them have cash reserves of two weeks, four weeks, six weeks. So there has been an intense focus at the local level first. This is so critical to set up relief funds, whether it’s city governments, public authorities, philanthropies, business chambers or financial institutions. But the cities and the municipal jurisdictions and some states have been first fingers in the dike, trying to get flexible resources to these at risk businesses, particularly micro-businesses, particularly black owned or brown owned businesses in the US that are most at risk. The Fed, the federal government has then come in with very large programs in our Small Business Administration, some coming out of disaster relief, some a new paycheck protection program, some even coming out of our Federal Reserve Bank of Main Street lending facility. These tend to work very well for companies that have existing banking relationships that are already in the mainstream of the system. So as we go forward, what we’re finding in the US is that these local relief funds, which were set up initially, particularly in Seattle, San Francisco, New York City and the have now moved across the country. They’re playing a critical role with this stratified and segmented small business market, really zero to 20 employees that are not really in the mainstream financial system. And if we don’t act with alacrity if we don’t act at scale and if we don’t act with appropriate capital, we’re going to lose them. And then we’re going to wake up, you know, when we come out of our basements, bleary eyed, whenever that is. And we’re going to go into our downtowns and commercial corridors and literally find like empty movie sets or stage sets. Buildings will be intact, but these small businesses will have not just shuttered. They will have collapsed. So there is a sense of real urgency here. The federal government is responding, but it’s responding slow and not particularly in a way that ultimately aligns with the needs of these particularly small businesses and black and brown businesses.

Mary Rowe [00:09:37] Thanks Bruce. And we’re going come back to this notion of local sources of relief funds, because as Paul McKinnon is quite rightly pointing out in the chat, Canadian municipal governments are restricted from doing so. And welcome to the Canadian constitution as it is. We’re going to come back to that. So, Mary (Moran), I’m going to go to you next in Calgary. What are you seeing? What are you observing?

Mary Moran [00:09:57] Yeah, I mean, I think just to level set, I think Calgary is in a really unique situation because we’ve been through five years of a structural change in the energy industry. And our problems are really complex, right? So we currently have 25 percent office space vacancy, which is about 14 million square feet of empty office space that we’ve had for the better part of that five year downturn. And by far the highest amount of office space on a per capita basis than any other jurisdiction in North America. We’ve doubled the amount of Toronto, you know, four times the amount of Detroit, three times the amount of Houston, etc. Pittsburgh. Although we’ve made great economic returns at a different time, we also have this. We also have a very young, highly educated population that’s staying in Calgary. Unlike other cyclical downturns in the energy industry, they’re actually stands a greater sense of attachment for sure. And I could just see that, you know, we’ve been working really hard to try to change perceptions about Calgary over the last five years. We’ve been trying to talk to people about what else is going that we have a burgeoning kind of tech sector. We’re really working to embrace digital technologies to advance that. The industrial Internet of Things, all of our sectors in 2020 was supposed to be our defining year of making a bit of a pivot on that regard. And of course, then we get hit with it. Then we get hit with another global oil price war. So it’s like a triple effect in Calgary. And I can tell you, it’s a community that’s devastated. We’re talking unemployment as high as 25 percent. Our GDP is obviously going to contract probably greater than other parts of the (Country). And although everybody is being hit hard, I would say Calgary is being hit harder so you know, we actually have had a local fund, the city fund, not for incentives per say, but that we would help build ecosystems to advance our strategy in the new economy. And so you would work at ecosystems and anchors to help scaling companies grow. And we’re you know, we’re we have been tempted this whole time to kind of jump into the COVID. How do you help small businesses respond? How do you use it as a bailout fund? How do you use it for COVID growth opportunities? And basically just step back and just say, we’re going to need this money as much when we’re coming out of this is in rebuilding as we are going to need it today. Right. And so we can’t we just have made the decision that we are going through the process and making decision and it can’t be in an emergency fund because one hundred million dollars isn’t going to save an economy that has such complex problems as we do. We have to ensure that we are very thoughtful. We’re laser focused on the companies that we have invested in to make sure they get through this COVID that during COVID and post-carbon. And then we have to really think thoughtfully about how we use that fund to accelerate whatever the new norm is for Calgary, which doesn’t feel normal at all.

Mary Rowe [00:13:11] Again, you’re pointing out, you know, whose funds? which point in a crisis? whose funds are the most appropriate? who can get them into the hands of the right folks? So I hear you’re saying you’re all ears. Just for the gathered assembly on this session, I’m going round just for the first tier, to get everybody get their ore in and then we’ll start to unpack these things and it’ll be a less formal conversation. So, Patrick, I want to come to you next. Talk to us. What? How Halifax? I know you all said empty office floors. I was in both. I was in both Halifax and Calgary last several months, Mary – I’m interested the way you spun that you’ve got more commercial space than anybody else. Fabulous, and you’ve got lots of empty. And I know Halifax too. Patrick, let’s hear from you.

Patrick Sullivan [00:13:54] Well, and you’re absolutely right. Although, I mean, I must say, we felt very good about Halifax’s growth over the last number of years. I mean, we had 2.9 percent, 2.6 six percent GDP growth in 2019. Our population has grown quite significantly, which is a bit unusual in Nova Scotia. Our population has not been increasing significantly. Halifax is up to four hundred and forty thousand people up 2.3 percent of the last number of years with a goal of growing to 550,000. So we were in a great place. I think I’d like to think that we’re still going to be in that great place as we come out of this. We’ve had a lot of construction in Halifax. We’ve had a lot more office space that has been developed, which is kind of left a number of smaller spaces behind. So, yeah, we’re almost at 20 percent vacancy rates in Halifax. But we think that there will be a turnover, too, whether it’s residential over time as there has been significant building. But we’re experiencing much the same every else is. Halifax is a bit of a bit of a split personality. We’re a bit of a tale of two cities. We have a significant government and academic presence in this city. So no greater than twenty five percent of the working population are government employees. And thankfully, I think they’re still getting paid. I’d like to think they’re still spending money, but clearly the private sector is not. You know, we’ve had a number of restaurant employees in H.R.M is about twenty two thousand people and the number of employees laid off are twenty thousand. So twenty of the twenty two. In hotels, there’s roughly three thousand employees and twenty seven hundred of them. So there’s three hundred employees left in hotels. So we’ve got a real devastation in the hospitality, in the tourism sectors, in restaurants. But just to address some of the points that some of the other folks have made. I mean, what we’ve seen from the federal government is the start of some of that cash coming in. We have yet to see the cash primarily through the wage subsidy. People are getting money. I think we’ve seen that with the Canadian emergency response benefit. So people are getting their two thousand dollars. That’s very helpful. Hopefully they’ll be able to pay the rent. They’ll be able to at least spend a little of that on their food needs and those sorts of things. You know, we’re now at the provincial level where the province has stepped up and is providing some programs, a five thousand dollar business impact grant. So not a loan, a grant to small businesses that were ordered closed, but only those that were ordered closed. And now we’re at the municipal level. And to your point, municipalities can’t deal with the debt. Certainly that was going I wasn’t aware that it was across the country, so I didn’t know that. But they can’t go into debt. So what can the municipality do to support these micro-businesses, which even with that cascade of money from the feds and the province are still being left behind?

Mary Rowe [00:16:59] You know, I don’t think it’s just that they can’t go into debt. It’s also that they apparently there are restrictions to whether they can give money to businesses. That’s what I think some of the commenters are reacting to. I’m going to come back to that. Thanks, Patrick. I’ll go down to Mark Garner to talk to us about what he’s experiencing in his role as leading a downtown business improvement area right smack down in the main spine of the Toronto downtown, the commercial centre of Street. So, Mark, talk to us about what you’re seeing.

Mark Garner [00:17:28] Well, I think it’s. Thanks, Mary. I think it’s the same as what everybody else is experiencing. I mean, obviously, Yonge Street, Canada’s iconic main street, is shut down very quickly. Starting in early March, just the economic impact of shutting down this main street being the number one tourist destination in Toronto. We have the preeminent retail location. Yonge Dundas Square. You know, it is the busiest street in Canada. Two hundred and thirty eight thousand people cross the intersection of Yonge and Dundas on a daily basis. Forty two million people walk north and south on Yonge Street. So when you think about that volume of pedestrian traffic now disappearing, the economics of that has been significant. So the street has closed. We’re doing our best to make sure that it’s a safe street. We’re very concerned about those people that are still on street, the street engaged individuals that have been forced out of shelter services or other support services to make sure that they’re getting the supports they need. Obviously, the hospitality industry has been the hardest hit. We have about twenty six percent of all the hotel stays in Toronto are in our patch. So that has been a significant loss, obviously, with all the restaurants, those closing being able to support just those restaurants that are still open and provide takeout has been a main focus for us. But the uniqueness of our neighbourhood is we’re not just a live work, play, learn and shop neighbourhood. So the impact when you think about the university now going online when we’ve had, you know, one hundred thousand students in the area at any given point in time and the economics they generate, we’re at an interesting time in trying to calculate the impacts on our on our sectors and support them as best as possible.

Mary Rowe [00:19:18] Thanks, Mark. Karen, you were kind of ahead of the curve here, you were already trying to get digital stuff happening. Why don’t you describe a little bit about what you’ve been doing and then specifically, what are you seeing in the coded time here?

Karen Leong [00:19:33] Thank you for having me, Mary. So we actually deal with about 6000 merchants across North America right now, many of whom are small businesses, but a little bit more established. So when I say established, that means that they are using more legacy systems installed point of sale systems, probably not online. And the reality is that most retailers actually still are not online if they are small businesses. Right. So I hear everybody here obviously talking about it from a different perspective. The relief funds are -certainly everybody’s grateful to have them if they are available and the cash is coming. That being said, though, they are obviously just a stopgap, right? If you’re not selling, they’re not going to help. And that ultimately is the big problem when it comes to digitization. And what we found to be the biggest challenges right now for our merchants is there’s different phases of this crisis from I’m talking from a retail perspective. That’s the industry I deal with. Wal-Mart’s president recently announced we’re now in the hair dyeing phase. Right. People are now past the hoarding of toilet paper. They now need to color the white. Right. So, I mean, there’s different cycles and waves of this whole phase. And part of the problem is your business. Where does that fit in that phase? That has been a huge problem because different sectors and different industries just don’t fit into maybe the first two waves of retail hoarding or retail purchasing. And that has been a problem. I mean, if you’re selling bridal gowns, for example, and there are no weddings, no matter what you do to your business to digitize, it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to help. Right. So the relief would be very different in that sector versus grocery or obviously we found a surprising uplift in toy stores because everybody’s kids need to be occupied right now. Right. So there’s certainly key industries that are seeing the impact and not. But in terms of challenges, I would go back to the fact that people need to understand when you digitize, what does that mean? What are the short term low hanging fruit that you can do immediately? And then obviously, what do we change for the new normal? Because that new normal is not here right now? Well, we need to think about that, because there’s some major things that will possibly impact. And I know that so many people here can be involved in things like zoning. All right. Some of you may have heard about what Lululemon has done with their stores recently. They’ve been able to convert all their stores into distribution centers because of the technology that they use. Now, if that’s no longer store, how does that impact the hiring the people? Do they have open hours? Are they open if they’re inside a mall or not? So there’s so many different things involved in this that obviously requiring urban engagement. Right.

Mary Rowe [00:22:14] Mm hmm. Yeah. Fascinating. Well, thanks, folks. You got us all on just some really interesting things. We’re getting lots of action in the chat here about, you know, the longer term implications of what does this really mean for how businesses organize themselves? Should we have alternate forms of organization or co-ops, more resilient, et cetera, et cetera? I want to get to that in a sec. What I really want to go back to is just immediate relief and how we’ve been doing that in Canadian cities. Bruce, our emphasis has been on a couple of things. One is getting money into the hands of Canadians through bank transfers, which is the emergency relief benefit. But then primarily the business supports have been with you. Patrick mentioned one- has been primarily to make it easier for businesses to assume debt. And the sectors have been pushing back saying that doesn’t help. And what Karen just suggested, even if you give them a $40000 loan, what are they going to do with the money because their staff are actually at home collecting employment insurance. So I’m just curious, does anybody want to pursue any of this around whether or not we’ve had adequate cash be infused? And do we need better mechanisms to get that? Anybody want to weigh in on that?

Mark Garner [00:23:24] Well, I’ll start, I guess. I mean, the answer is no. The answer is no. For a couple of reasons, for just the reason you alluded to. I mean, small businesses and we’re talking very small businesses are deathly afraid of debt. And, you know, as Bruce said, I mean, if some of those folks have a couple of weeks of cash on hand, how will they ever pay back the money? There’s simply no way. I mean 83% of our seventeen hundred members are small businesses. Some of them are very small. And, you know, they’re simply saying we understand a loan is available. We just can’t take a loan. We’re so deathly afraid of a loan. How would we ever pay it back? And my comment to them is, well, at least take the 40 thousand dollar Canadian emergency business account. That way you can get ten thousand dollars in forgiveness. And their answer is, well, we’re not structured to do that because we don’t have fifty thousand dollars in payroll records. We’ve been paying ourselves with dividends because we’re so small doing draws on the business. So, I mean, that’s my quick comment.

Mary Rowe [00:24:25] Anybody else want to weigh in on this? There are other instruments. I mean, is there other advocacy that we should be taking to get the federal government to create some other kind of tools? And they do it in tandem with provincial governments. Anybody else struck on anything that we should be pursuing?

Bruce Katz [00:24:41] I just want to confirm this concern about that. There’s a level of uncertainty here. Obviously, we’re not sure when we’re going to open up or what the nature of opening up will look like. What if we don’t have a cure or what do we don’t have a vaccine? We’re going to have to for people to come back to the to the main streets, whether they’re in big cities or medium or small cities. There has to be a level of confidence that they’re not going to be reinfected. And obviously, you watch the American news, you understand the struggle we have between the national government or governors, mayors, et cetera. There’s no uniform trust or set of information that we can all rely on right now. I will say that the federal government, with its paycheck protection program, which is a new program, initially sized at 350 billion they are considering in Congress today, whether they grow that to 600 billion is essentially a forgivable loan product to cover payroll in the near term. You know, with regard to the microbusinesses, it’s really the local level that is giving direct cash infusion for the next two months, three months. So folks can survive as a bridge to get to some of these potentially larger Federal Reserves.

Mary Rowe [00:26:01] And Bruce, the mechanism, you say they’re doing that, how are they getting money into the hands of businesses?

Bruce Katz [00:26:05] They’re going through banks. So they’re going through banks that have been certified lenders with the federal government. They’ve opened that up. The challenge with that is many of our large banks went to their priority customers first. You know, the way we define small business in the US is less than five hundred employees. Though the folks who got served first or midsize enterprises that have longstanding bank relationships with either major national or regional banks. And it’s the little guys who are really in a different kind of economy that aren’t getting served by this.

Mary Rowe [00:26:42] Do we want to differentiate between local economy, meaning? I mean, Mary, you’ve got a lot of mid-sized businesses in your in your bailiwick, not just street retail. Right?

Mary Moran [00:26:54] We still, 70 percent of the business in Calgary would still be considered small, medium sized businesses. So it’s not all right.

Mary Rowe [00:27:02] How are you defining small and medium?

Mary Moran [00:27:05] Small being less than 50. You know, I mean, I think we had a problem coming into this, which was we have a structural problem in our tax structure because we had this, you know, large downtown office occupied office space with 42 million square feet per population of 1.4 or 1.3 million. The entire city was benefiting from the taxes that were generated out at those office towers. Right. And then, of course, we early on said that it’s going to take us about fifteen years to fill up that office space. So it equivocally had an impact the office space assets were devalued, and it had a direct impact on a quarter billion dollars on our city of Calgary tax base rate. And so we had the structural problem where it had to be pushed to the outside, the downtown, core businesses or smaller businesses. Right. And that was painful over the last four years. And we also have a structural problem, which is that we have low residential taxes. So you have the people that were getting squeezed with the small businesses over the last four years. So we actually saw a lot of businesses close over the last four years in the first part of this challenging time that we have been experiencing because it wasn’t being pushed to residential and it was being pushed from large office spaces to smaller business. So we had this big structural problem which has just been compounded. So, you know, out of the gate, you know, obviously last week we had to furlough property taxes for businesses, which is helpful. But it’s not the only solution for sure. But I kind of am with Patrick. You know, you have to be careful not to create bailout funds because you don’t know what the world’s going to look like post-COVID. How are we going to help companies then, you know, the ones that survive to accelerate that survival right?? so I worry about that.

Mary Rowe [00:29:18] Yeah. One of the suggestions I’d heard was, you know, should we have had a situation where your HST for the last six months could be rebated back to you, because part of it is just the mechanics of getting money into people’s hands. It’s not the easiest thing to actually do as you suggested. On the other side, folks are saying, well, wait. You know, there were some local street businesses that were already on their last legs. And so is it just, you know, hastening a kind of an inevitable thing? And, you know, to what extent do we want to be propping that up? Mark, what are you observing? I mean, Yonge Street – the tale of Yonge Street is a really interesting tale about urban life generally. Right?

Mark Garner [00:30:00] And how it’s changed. And it’s getting to that point that both Mary and Karen have mentioned is the phases. The phases we’re going to go through when we look at just high street retail in our neighbourhood 18, 24 months ago. I didn’t have flagship H&M, Muji, UniGlo, Nordstrom’s. That’s one solution that we need to look at. As you know, current needs versus what our mid-term needs, our long term needs. Then I have also small independent business that have been getting access to cash. Now, again, it’s it’s how do we prepare for the next phase in the city of Toronto? We know that it’s costing us sixty five million dollars a week to keep the city operational. We know that there is a large, expensive seven hundred thirty nine million dollars that have been allocated for the current run rate. But at our current spend rate, this would exhaust June 1st. So if we’re not through this next phase, what are the solutions that are needed? I think, you know, the long term strategy and some of the things we’ll need to look at, because everybody is assuming that those large pot of cash that we can all just go to and pull out of. We’re at a time where we need to see war bonds come back. But it’s going to be a COVID 19 Bond. We need to find more creative solutions to get money back into this country that are currently stored offshore. We need to look at, you know, money that is leaving this country. How does that money stay in this country to be the economic stimulus that we need? Because we know we need to spend our way out of this. But what is the new norm, you know? And we’re already thinking about just shutting down festivals and events in our neighbourhood for a summer. And I could just cite, you know, the one festival that has a huge economic draw for us was busker fest that used to be on Young Street that has forty two million dollars of direct and indirect spending in our neighbourhood over four days. So if we can’t convene the way we used to convene in the past, then what does the North by Northeast festival, which is the key economic drivers for not only the city of Toronto, but for our neighbourhood specifically. So we’re always talking about cash. We need more cash. We need to get access to cash. I think there is potential need to look at, you know, just limiting taxation for numerous years, because also as part of a membership based organization, I’ve got retail businesses that are not paying the rents currently, but the building owner has to still pay the banks and everybody else. So we’re trying to find these solutions and they’re extremely complex and we’re trying. But I think going forward, some unique opportunities have to be discussed, some very hard decisions and discussions have to be had and we have to find a way to stimulate this economy globally.

Mary Rowe [00:32:46] I mean, money is going to be scarce, you know, and you want to say to city governments, municipal governments, you need to have a holiday from property tax. But of course as you say, their burn rate is some ridiculous amount every day now. But they know that they’re not going to be able to raise property tax. Mary, I think you wanted to jump in.

Mary Moran [00:33:02] Yeah, I think I just want to hit on that stage point because, and I also wanted to make the comment that HST is foreign word to me. So that’s a thing in Alberta.

Mary Rowe [00:33:17] oh! ha! That’s right!

Mary Moran [00:33:20] I don’t mean to get into political kind of territory here, but I think, you know, part of our challenge was we had to kind of break down these phases. Right. And we don’t know the timing of these phases but we’re really in what we call responder survival mode right now. So what are the tools you can provide? And I’ll come back to that. But then you have to be in the rebuild mode. And that’s where I think cities are going to have the greatest impact. Right. So in our case, it’s recovery, probably with the rest of the country it will be growth. So in survival mode is yes, we need to furlough property taxes. But and we have to encourage enough businesses, a number of businesses to go online and we have to encourage companies to go, look, you know, we’re creating a marketplace where people can go find where COVID opportunities are so they can pivot. And then we have to, you know, be connecting YYC which is where people who will find that there are actually jobs right in either COVID growth or high growth industries. But when we get into the rebuild there for us anyway, it can be a lot of retraining of people because we know there’s going to be people that are permanently shed from industries and our whole mission. And Karen, this will you’ll love this, but we’re really trying to teach everybody across all industries how to become, you know, because we have a disproportionate number of engineers in our city, but they don’t know the digital technologies or the advanced technologies that are going to impact every single industry. So we’re doing kind of energy to do digital training right now, and we want to do that in like to thousands of people. So that retraining is going to happen in the rebuild and then it’s like just support your local business. You know, we know we’re the home of WestJet. We want to make sure everybody’s flying WestJet. When we return to business. Right. Or, you know. And so, we had to kind of break it down to those three stages, respond, rebuild. And then for us recovery, which for the rest of the country is growth. You have to think about what your opportunities you could blow your brains out in the respond. Right. It’s easy to give people that need help money but it’s not easy to tell when you’re handing out tax rebates and bailouts, whether they were or were not a fragile business prior to it.

Mary Rowe [00:35:40] So you can you can imagine in the chat function, we’re getting lots of people saying, isn’t this in fact, justification for a universal basic income? Then, in fact, the CERB is becoming a cash transfer to the individual. So you put money in the hands of people so they can buy groceries and pay their rent and that. Do we focus on that versus actually putting resources into the business? Okay. Karen, I know you’re trying to jump in on all things digital. Go.

Karen Leong [00:36:05] Well, thank you, Mary, for bringing that up. I didn’t want to raise it myself. Seems like a conflict of interest for myself right when it comes to digitization. But I mentioned low-hanging fruit before, right? Because the cost of training and using these technologies is surprisingly low. The problem is the learning curve and the fact that most retailers or most merchants and small business owners don’t know how exactly to do what they do. I’ve seen somebody here already mentioned Digital Main Street, which is a fantastic organization. And the things that they’re doing. But I think the issue right now is exactly this. There’s time if assuming we have CERB and we have some of those short term relief funds to actually change your business. This is the time to do it. You have the actual business is down and you can actually do the things you need to do to make those small pivots and changes to actually make your business available online, be found online and sell online or even just take orders. Right. Not just through a phone. And these are the types of things that we’re not seeing support for because these are still investments at the end of the day. And if people don’t have enough money to pay rent, they’re not going to be spending money to invest. And this is exactly kind of where I actually did submit a proposal to the provincial portal, the federal portal. But I understand there’s certainly priorities, right. Obviously, health care, frontline workers and then certain sectors are prioritized over things such as urban rebuilding at this point. Right. But that’s certainly something we have to think about. Although, you know, it is it’s a scary thought because once you walk down this process, what happens to the need for in-person physical retail or stores? And where does it go from there? Right. And we are enabling a future that requires less of what we are trying to save.

Mary Rowe [00:37:49] So, I mean, this is the challenge we have at CUI. Our commitment is to the actual physical place, the spatial manifestation of a community in a city and how the economy historically has thrived because of the adjacency and the proximity and all the interaction. And more and more and more and more and more Canadians are choosing to live in these environments. So I hear you like if we go to a totally digitized and we lose that face to face piece, at what cost? You know, for us, what happens to streets? What happens to neighbourhoods? What happens to vibrancy? So we’re with you, Karen, and struggling with this. You want folks to be able to be competitive and be able to be contemporary in how they carry on, but at the same time, we don’t want to become so atomized that none of us ever sees each other.

Mark Garner [00:38:37] I think it is a bit of a challenge just to chime in on that. This is again, we’re starting to look at the the calculations of our neighbourhoods. And it’s time to leverage your Environics data, whatever you know, data is going to be a part of a major guiding point on next steps and what we need to do. So understanding your neighbourhoods and the economic stimulus that they can provide, obviously we’re encouraging everybody that does have cash flow right now to spend and support the businesses that are there. But again, we’re expecting, you know, post-COVID what does our vacancy rate turn into? Right now, we run at about 8 to 15 percent vacancy rate on Yonge Street. But we could be calculating that anywhere from 30 to 40 percent vacancy rate in a new world. So then how do you bring product back into that urban environment, Mary? And how do we stimulate those people to get back out of their houses? You and I had talked in the past, even with businesses that are going to open again, those restaurants are not going to be able to hire back all their employees in one fell swoop. So it’s going to have to be a phased labor implementation to bring people back to get back to full time employment.

Mary Rowe [00:39:47] Yeah, you know, Patrick, you were trying to get in.

Patrick Sullivan [00:39:49] And just to build on that comment. I mean, the question is, will we ever get back some of those restaurants? So, you know, I think of an area we have Quintal Road, which launched an initiative today where they’re trying to take all of the business businesses in their business improvement district and bring them online. So they’ve launched an online component. You can now go there. You can now shop. It’s wonderful. But so many of those restaurants are now finding that they can do takeout and delivery without the need for the size they used to have because they simply don’t need the chairs anymore. And what will happen when these ends? You know, I’m not silly enough to think that it’ll end in May. I mean, I think we’re thinking that we’re going to be at home, as I suspect many areas are, until at least June and likely into July. You know, as this phased opening starts to begin at that point.

Mary Rowe [00:40:42] Yeah. Is anybody of this group, is anybody in touch with the insurance industry? Lori Ann Gervin is asking us this on the chat. Are you, Patrick, what are you hearing from the insurers?

Patrick Sullivan [00:40:51] Well, they’ve been they’ve been able to defer things of the whole concept of pandemic insurance is illusory and never existed. So no one is getting paid off right now. But they tend to be they sound like they’re being very cooperative and working with many of the folks in the various industries.

Mary Rowe [00:41:12] So, you know, if you think of the broad things you’re talking about, guys, you’re talking about cash. How do we actually get cash in versus debt at this point that Mary just wrote about having to retrain folks? You know, digital is going to become more and more part of the way we work. Then are we going to have to… And I appreciate what people that have had communities that have had dominant industries like Calgary has had or like Detroit had and how do you take a large workforce that you’ve got so much tacit knowledge there, how do you repurpose those skills into a new way and how do you. So investments and training. Mark, I’m in love with your idea of a war bond or a COVID bond or whatever that is. You know, you can see in our own vicinities, people, consumers are wanting their local businesses and local economy to survive. They want to see this continue. And we don’t have the same community bank structure that you have for US. But we do have Credit Unions. We do have alternate forms of finance. We have a long history of this in the west and in eastern Canada. And whether we’ll come out of this with those strengthened, more people moving their resources, I don’t know. But as you look into this sort of and let’s say this fall. What do you anticipate we need to be planning for this fall? As Mark, you just started to hint on it. What kinds of restaurants? How’s that going to work? And then are there is there some major change that you think we need to be advocating for, that this has taught us we need to see to strengthen local economies. Who wants to go first?

Bruce Katz [00:42:42] So a couple of things. I think we need to understand in the US in particular, we’re going to see a rise of big box, big box retail. And so the triumph of cities is the small, the Jane Jacobs, the ground level. But in many, particularly low income neighbourhoods, folks are going out there shopping and that’s going to become the new normal. So this the small local stores are getting crushed here and will probably disappear. And then we’re going to have these corridors, almost suburban corridors within our cities that will become the new shopping areas.

Mary Rowe [00:43:18] It’s very depressing. Bruce, is it?

Bruce Katz [00:43:20] I mean, this has been an ongoing issue in the US because as our central business districts have come back, many low income neighbourhood commercial centres have really struggled. I would say that we may see the rise of cooperative mechanisms because if we’re reliant on every small business, micro business in particular, but we’re 0 to 20 employees to come back on their own. This is going to be a very long and painful recovery. If, however, we take whole corridors and begin to see master tenancies, new co-operative intermediaries’ new financial products that really provide a platform for technology and for procurement and for entrepreneurial training, etc., etc., legal accounting, so forth, that might prompt a quicker response. Last thing, Mark raised the war bonds. Very interesting. The other experience in the US is the G.I. Bill post war – a lot of people are going to be in educational situations after this is over. [3.0s] Community colleges, workforce development programs, really three to six month or less in terms of reskilling and retraining, particularly on the technology side, that needs to be paid for in part by our national government. That’s just beginning to be thought through in the U.S.

Mary Rowe [00:44:44] Mary, do you want to comment on this sort of what you’re seeing? The summer and then any larger big moves that you think we should be advocating for.

Mary Moran [00:44:52] A couple of things. I can’t emphasize enough about this need for future skills. Right. And this transition to digital. And, you know, I think even in this response that not dissimilar to some of the panelists that we’re seeing groups come together and figure out how they deliver online today. And I think that that’s really important, but it’s not going to impact all industries. Right. These technologies are coming towards all industries, including our industrial ones, the ones we excel at like a tsunami. So the future skills has to be top of mind, I think, across the country. We kind of have a head start on it because we have a disproportionate number of highly educated, highly skilled talent that wants to stay in Calgary. And so we’re running pilots on that right now, even through COVID. But we have to continue to have this conversation about more support for local. And so which leads into the next comment, which is that, you know, for the last five years that I’ve exhausted every friendship I have talking about vacancies, and we really have to stop talking about vacancies and talk of vibrancy. And that really needs to be the focus.

Mary Rowe [00:46:03] So it has me. What did you say? From vacancy to vibrancy.

Mary Moran [00:46:07] And so that has kind of shifted us to think about all the things that Mark has done so well in Toronto. How do we do that? Vibrancy was a problem before in Calgary. And so and, you know, post COVID, the second potential structural change in this second global oil price war, we’re going to have a bigger vibrancy problem than we’ve had the last four years because we have enough office space to put another hundred and forty thousand people in downtown Calgary. But we’ve got to figure out how we pull people into the downtown. Right. And so it’s not just about live and conversion of office space to residential. And, you know, it’s about play, it’s about work all the things Mark said. And I would just say connectedness. Right. And so connectedness is obviously we all think about transit, but gosh darn it, in this digital world, we better be the best connected country with respect. I want to be 5G ready. I want to be 10G ready.

Mary Rowe [00:47:07] Yeah. I mean, it couldn’t be it couldn’t be in sharper relief right now. And in Mary, in terms of Calgary, as you suggest that, I mean, even before this you’ve had so so many multiple hits there. So it’s you know, that there is a sinister side to resilience, which is we have a resilient hit us again. I mean, there you are proving again and again and again you’re resilient. But at the same time, you may be a little bit further ahead because you’ve already because you’ve been in this trench for a while. Right. So the training piece, for instance, you’ve had to be on that already.

Mary Moran [00:47:36] Right. Not to mention, you know, we had a similar situation, although it was a point in time there. A lot of these practices were the same and that was really post-flood of 2013. So, you know, we were hit in 2013 with the flood and then we were hit with a structural change in the energy industry in 2014. So it’s been a long haul for Calgarians and it’s strangely that there’s a better sense of attraction now than then there has ever been. Like we’re not seeing people leave like they did with the city up until 2020, like we’ve been growing, you know, kind of like the 20,000 thousand people a year during the downturn. So there’s a real strong sense of attachment to that. And so you’re a hundred percent, right. We’re in the responding mode or recovery mode. And now we’re just on, you know, where we’re going back to survival, then rebuild and then back to recovery. Right. So I’m looking for sympathy, by the way, everybody.

Mary Rowe [00:48:36] I know. I mean, listen, I was in New Orleans after Katrina, so I know about this attraction factor and I believe stand in Detroit as well. That at these times, you know, you attract a certain kind of energy and commitment and people start thinking, I mean, there is opportunity to start new conversations right now that haven’t existed prior right now.

Mary Moran [00:48:55] And at a political level, there’s not a better time. You have to have political alignment, trust in leadership at all levels. And if you don’t have that, then it makes it really difficult.

Mary Rowe [00:49:06] I mean, the big question, which is coming up in the chat, I see John Stapleton has just raised it is whether or not as we recover here or are we going to make inequality worse or are we going to actually be able to put in place the kinds of structural things that seem to be lacking that we’re allowing us to have these polarizations surfacing? It’s a big question. I’m going to go to Mark and Karen and I’m going to wrap.

Mark Garner [00:49:29] I just want to add to the conversation about, you know, what is what is the future? What do we need to do next? I think through COVID, and we touched on it briefly earlier in the conversation is a lot of the businesses that were in place today, were not stable prior to. If you look at the culinary business restaurants, you know, three point five cents after their cost of doing business actually goes to savings. So they never had a large savings pool to begin with. So based on they didn’t have money, then going forward, the new change that has to come out of this new paradigm shift that has to occur is the cost of doing business has to be cheaper. We have to be healthier through economics for these independent, small, independent business, because I don’t disagree with what Bruce has said is it could be all big box store anywhere going forward. And we’ve got to find a way to sustain the small independent. So the cost of doing business is just the staggering costs that they have to deal with has to be eliminated so we can have savings that we put money back into the economy.

Mary Rowe [00:50:34] So, Mark, a question you and I did batted around a bit is are we ultimately going to have to look at different kinds of costing for street level businesses? In other words, that maybe street level business is different. Bruce implied this with master tendencies, different kinds of arrangements so that the rental cost is reduced significantly the way they had to with Barcelona, I think. Is that something that’s on your radar at all?

Mark Garner [00:50:57] Yeah, I think that is a big part of the conversation. We have to look at the taxation within Toronto, specifically how impact functions best on highest and best use. We also should be looking at and looking at implementation of programs around building owners and leases, having profit share so their lease fees would go up as they become more successful. And that should be a phased in approach going forward.

Mary Rowe [00:51:22] It’s interesting, So there’s new models, new models Yeah. And then we have to collectively as a community, decide that we believe in having these kinds of street level local businesses, that this is integral, integral to who we are. OK. Karen, last comment for you and then we’re going to sum up.

Karen Leong [00:51:39] So building a bit on what Mark just said, the future of retail or hashtag the future of retail has. It’s not something that was invented with COVID. We’ve seen the transformation of retail moving towards online e-commerce or whatever you want to call it. Right. It’s been happening for a very long time. That being said, there are certainly certain sectors and industries that are being displaced. But by and large, though, what we are seeing is more supplementary. So it isn’t necessarily a one to one Zero-Sum game. Right. So we’re talking about a scenario where an end on possibly a positive note. It all depends on how long this this actually this lockdown or some version of this lockdown goes on, because I spent eight years in Asia. So I think I still talk to many my friends in China and everywhere else and they’re open. I mean, they’re reopening the businesses. Right. But the way they’ve reopened is whatever tools and whatever industries and channels they’ve opened up are just now additional revenue streams for many of them. All right. So it all depends on how agile we are, how quickly we can add those streams for the short term and hopefully how quickly we can get through this whole shutdown period. Because, you know, three months versus twelve months is going to be a huge difference. And that is where, you know, all of these programs that we’re talking about come into play.

Mary Rowe 00:52:59] Yeah. One last question. As we head into the homestretch here, in the next three months, things are going to, as Karen suggest, that things are probably going to start to reopen. Each of you, what would you what would you see as the priority to reopen first?

Patrick Sullivan [00:53:13] I’ll jump in. I’d say the priority is first to keep these good businesses through no fault of their own. Inexistent. So they need cash to keep going. That’s the first thing. And they need that cash over the next few months. And then we need to initiate programs that will stimulate purchase. So whether that’s a buy local, those kinds of things, and then cities need to review how they tax some of these locations. I mean, when the average size restaurant, the Halifax pays forty thousand dollars in tax and my residential tax is six thousand dollars, I mean, there’s just something wrong with that.

Mary Rowe [00:53:49] So this notion of some cash procurement and buying local and then some kind of recalibrating the taxes, anybody else have another idea like that’s something that could be looked at immediately. Mary Bruce?

Bruce Katz [00:54:03] Look, I think we’re going to need different financial products. Pre-COVID, we were looking at equity products for investment in small businesses, particularly minority owned business. Debt is going to be very difficult for folks to take on. So it’s either going to be a cooperative model, joined with different kind of financial instruments, joined with different kind of investors. That’s what we’ve been pioneering with opportunity zones in the US though it’s an imperfect tool, but that’s started this conversation. We don’t have the right small business ecosystem, particularly for the 0 to 20, which is really at the end of the raison d’être of many of these urban districts at urban core.

Mary Rowe [00:54:45] Mary and Mark, anything to throw in behind that.

Mary Moran [00:54:52] You know, I mean, the government’s lead by example with local and social procurement, which we don’t see a lot of across the country. I really agree with it. There’s a couple of things that the financial tools I think are probably going to change. And I really like Mark’s idea, but the real estate community really needs to take a look at how they engage in kind of, you know, building owner and leasee profit sharing. I think that’s a brilliant idea. So it’s probably long overdue and particularly these times, even more. But I would also say governments, you know, with respect to kind of staging opportunities back or phasing them in, I think, you know, we are seeing the common tool for governments during any kind of economic downturn is the investment in infrastructure. And we’re seeing that. And so we’ve got to allow those projects to carry forward quickly, because it does really help the displaced workers back to work quickly.

Mary Rowe [00:55:51] Yeah, yeah. With the retraining piece that you’re having to dig so deep in. Mark and Karen, any last words from your view?

Mark Garner [00:55:57] Yeah, I think I echo all the comments around financial, but I’m going to bring something forward that has nothing to do with math, money and cash. We’ve got to seriously look and we should be doing right now about space, how the urban environment is going to have to play a key role in the success for this going forward. How do we convene again? How do we get families and children back into space? There is going to be a long term effect of COVID19 on everyone’s mental capacity and abilities. And so we’ve got to start looking at space now, how we want to convene in space and bring that forward as an urgent, very urgent priority.

Mary Rowe [00:56:40] Yeah, I mean, we are about a place and space. Karen, last word to you.

Karen Leong [00:56:47] I would mainly add education regarding operational processes. I think that businesses need assistance and training on that and they need to see best practices because that’s all we’re doing. It’s so rushed right now. Many businesses are not aware of what others are doing well or not doing well. And we have so many things we need to unlearn something as simple as handing somebody a receipt, having plexiglass in a store, whether or not you allow contactless tap on you on your pin pad. Right. So these are the types of things. They’re very low hanging fruit. Again, very simple. But we’re going to have more cases come back the minute we open. If we don’t teach and educate merchants how to actually be safe to operate. Otherwise, if people are not feeling safe, the consumers won’t come back.

Mary Rowe [00:57:34] Yeah. I mean, there’s just multi layers. Well, listen, gang, you’ve been terrific. You raised a whole bunch of questions and ideas for us and discussion points, as I suggested on the chat, we will repost specific ideas. And somebody asked what’s happening around coordinating all this activity and CUI is actually undertaking some specific work with business improvement areas and others who are interested in how are we going to actually stimulate and then support and sustain local businesses in their recovery and particularly the place based piece. And we would encourage you if you have examples of things that are happening because stuff is happening that’s interesting. Post it on CityShareCanada.ca There’s lots of ways that you can get this information out and get people discussing back and forth. We have two more of these talks this week. Wednesday, we’re looking at community wealth, which is a perfect segue coming out of this session. How can actual wealth stay in local communities in particular, benefit community participation from folks that have been isolated and not engaged as much in these kinds of opportunities? What will that look like? Can we have a just and equitable distribution of that going forward? And then on Friday, we have a one on one and one on one conversation with me and Jay Pitter about called the Urbanist Wake-Up Call and what’s not happening in this conversation. So the chat stays open for 30 more minutes. The panelists, we all faded away, but the chat will stay open. So please have at it and weigh in. And we’ll collect as much as we can. And we will post the results from this and this chat in a couple of days. Thank you, Mary, Patrick, Mark. Karen, Bruce, thank you for being with us. We’re happy to do city talk with you and we wish you all a good day.

Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

Note to reader: Chat comments have been edited for ease of readability. The text has not been edited for spelling or grammar. For questions or concerns, please contact events@canurb.org with “Chat Comments” in the subject line.

12:35:05          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff to All panelists: covidresponse@CANURB.org

12:35:23          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Today’s panel:

Mark Garner – https://downtownyonge.com

Bruce Katz – https://drexel.edu/nowak-lab/

Mary Moran – https://calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com

Patrick Sullivan – https://halifaxchamber.com

Karen Wong – https://takulabs.io

12:37:11          From Richard DiFrancesco: Good afternoon everyone

12:37:45          From paul mackinnon to All panelists: Hello from Downtown Halifax – paul mackinnon

12:37:51          From John Jung: What are some of the best practices currently?

12:39:29          From paul mackinnon to All panelists: would love to have a conversation about what the future of main streets look like post-covid. How do we help businesses survive, and how to we rebuild them?

12:40:21          From paul mackinnon: would love to have a conversation about what the future of main streets look like post-covid. How do we help businesses survive, and how to we rebuild them?

12:41:52          From paul mackinnon: Canadian cities can’t give $$ directly to businesses. Any programs whereby local gov’t has been able to get around this (ie, using arms-length orgs)?

12:43:08          From Rick Allwright: Hey Paul, I have an example of this in Yarmouth NS. Not specifically for this crisis but for our downtown facade improvement.

12:43:51          From Courtney Kishbaugh to All panelists: Paul, here is Bruce’s piece that goes through different types of local relief funds: https://drexel.edu/nowak-lab/publications/reports/Covid-Emergency-Fund-Typologies/

12:44:07          From Courtney Kishbaugh: Paul, here is Bruce’s piece that goes through different types of local relief funds: https://drexel.edu/nowak-lab/publications/reports/Covid-Emergency-Fund-Typologies/

12:44:27          From Aphrodite Bouikidis: There are many countries where cities cannot give money directly to businesses, just to add a global-minded reminder.

12:45:14          From Gillian Mason: Agree with Bruce that we will have to think hard to build into our future systems, the connections to the mainstream that will enable micro businesses, the backbone of many Toronto neighbourhoods, to access the many supports and services that are inaccessible to them (and them to us).

12:46:40          From Diane Dyson to All panelists: Cities do fund non-profits through grants and purchase-of-service.

12:47:17          From Anil Patel: Here are some resources that might be of interest from the www.SaveSmallBusiness.ca community. Global Comparisons of COVID-19 response for small business: https://bit.ly/SSB-COVID19-Country-Response-Comparison

12:47:46          From Audrey Jamal: In Ontario, the use of a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) has been used to provide funds for facade improvements in downtowns. There are also CIPs specific to brownfield remediation. Curious for a MAH perspective on how/if CIPs can b e used in this context to support small businesses in downtowns: http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=7032

12:48:10          From Aphrodite Bouikidis: Q: What are your views on more cooperative, democratic forms of business ownership and local economic activity? They are showing more resilience to crises (see an ILO 2009 report, for example). Economic resilience needs more attention, what are we doing in this area? (Thank you for your time in this discussion!)

12:48:46          From paul mackinnon: Has there been any Federal-level modelling – the cost of saving main street now vs the cost of letting mass amounts of businesses die? Is the lack of support perhaps intentional? Is it just too expensive? Or do we need to advocate more effectively?

12:50:25          From Milton Friesen to All panelists: Are there any early indicators (I realize we are adapting on the fly) of what we must or must not do – the early responses that are most instructive in responding a street and local levels?

12:54:00          From Aphrodite Bouikidis: How have the Chambers and leading businesses/industries worked with governments on emergency preparedness and risk reduction? How might they work on this in the future?

12:54:57          From Gillian Mason: City of Toronto was already investing in developing community-led neighbourhood-based resilience strategies (active modes: prepare, respond, recover, regroup and mitigate) which local communities are “testing” right now. Will be excellent lessons from this.

12:55:01          From Charles Finley to All panelists: Small business and entrepreneurs are so key to the identity, resilience and prosperity of neighbourhoods as well a commercial cores of large and small communities. Financial supports are essential but what tools can municipalities provide to assist small business – including ramps to ecommerce, perhaps in a local cooperative model, building better provisions for small businesses into zoning and parking restrictions that favour chains and larger companies.

12:55:47          From Salima Rawji to All panelists: Karen thank you for raising the land use issues. Would love to hear more from the panelists on this issue.

12:56:33          From Aphrodite Bouikidis: Thanks, Gillian.

12:58:12          From John Jung: Maybe increase the universal basic income distribution to move cash at the local level?

13:00:08          From paul mackinnon to All panelists: Link to the letter Canada’s BIAs have sent to the Fed government:https://downtown.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/IDACanada_PMLetter_COVIDPrograms.pdf

13:00:10          From Brian Owen: But not through Credit Unions?

13:01:10          From Canadian Urban Institute: Folks, please be aware that your chat settings may mean you are only sending comments to panelists. Other attendees would also love to see your comments so please change your settings to “All panelists and attendees”. There is a drop-down menu next to To: where you can change this setting.

13:01:54          From paul mackinnon: Sharing link to letter the BIAs of Canada have sent to the PM, advocating for a main street program:

13:02:03          From paul mackinnon: https://downtown.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/IDACanada_PMLetter_COVIDPrograms.pdf

13:02:57          From Diane Dyson: Cities also fund non-profits through grants, tax rebates, and purchase-of-service.

13:03:20          From Brian Owen: Does the $40,000 loan have a requirement of $50,000 payroll? Did I hear incorrectly?

13:05:16          From Emily Harris: What cross-Can data do we need about city impacts? Most of the breakdowns I see are by province

13:05:51          From Emily Harris: What can StatsCan do

13:06:45          From John Jung: In this new normal are there some digital examples of how communities could generate new income?

13:07:00          From Mark Richardson: Yes, LOAN program has a Payroll requirement…

13:07:04          From Leticia Chapa: Does a post-covid urban realm mean that mostly big box stores survive? They are the only ones who can absorb this financial shock. Will this make us more dependent on smart centres we have to drive to?

13:07:10          From Alan McNair: The government needs to move towards a guaranteed universal minimum income for all Canadians. This may be the best way to recreate citizen confidence in the economy going forward. The confidence that they will have money to feed, clothe and shelter their families and deal with healthcare issues beyond basic medical care will allow citizens to consider making other purchases, which will then support the local businesses which have been so hard hit by COVID 19.

13:07:27          From Dina Graser: Organizations like Digital Main Street are working in this area.

13:08:03          From John Jung: Use of broadband and advanced technologies should be leveraged to innovate new forms of revenue generation and spending. Any examples or ideas that could reflect this?

13:08:55          From John Jung: we also need a reimagining stage

13:09:02          From Mark Richardson: Details on the ‘Canada Emergency Business Account’

https://www.cibc.com/en/business/covid-19/emergency-business-account-faq.html

13:09:04          From Brian Owen: The actual organization that presents SXSW in Austin may actually collapse, let alone the economic impact. This is true with many international conferences, where the org. is funded by the proceeds of the major annual event. Of course, the loss of econ. impact is devastating to the cities in every instance.

13:09:37          From Gillian Mason: There is a 69% point differential between those at the high end and those at the low end of the literacy spectrum (think literacy proficiency) in their digital skills; and up to 40% of the population in every province do not have the literacy skills to become proficient in digital literacy.

13:09:52          From Anna Linden-Fraser to All panelists: In a respond / rebuild world where more businesses are online, what are the impacts on transit systems – which will no doubt already be suffering from people being afraid of taking transit

13:10:16          From LoriAnn Girvan to All panelists: is there any work being done on insurance- payments or not of interruption as well as if the industry will turn its back on small business and add to future costs by out of reach premiums and more complex liability issues?

13:10:25          From kendall christiansen: FYI – the CEO of SXSW was interviewed in Sunday’s NYTimes business section re it survival strategy/prospects

13:10:36          From Sarah Davies: The org I work for is small – less than 250k per year. One of our biggest earners is a conference that we hold in early Oct. If we can’t do that this year…. Add to that our funding from the gov’t may be reduced this year and it could create a huge problem.

13:10:54          From Gillian Mason: Karen is right: we have the capacity to upgrade the literacy levels of Canadians that we have not yet seized … here is a significant recovery opportunity.

13:11:06          From Abhilash Kantamneni: Seems like Mayors around the country are striking advisory ‘task forces’ to provide local input on react/recover/rebuild efforts. Are there any ongoing efforts to coordinate learning across these emerging groups?

13:12:44          From Gillian Mason: In Toronto, we have seen place-based workforce development strategies provide a geographic solution for a geographic problem

13:13:24          From John Jung: Reality is that we will come out of it but may be 1.5 to 2 years. Will be face to face again, but need to leverage digital opportunities now and take the time and effort to learn new things in a digital world.

13:13:38          From LoriAnn Girvan: where is the insurance industry with supporting business interruption. will we see exclusions that could effectively shut small business owners out of coverage in future?

13:13:44          From Milton Friesen: Karen, great question about how the digital (well in motion before Covid) may displace or make redundant built/physical space? Rural to urban shifts provide clues about over-run on physical space when people migrate to cities.

13:14:41          From John Jung: We need real leadership at this stage to move new ideas forward. Where are they? Best practices?

13:15:01          From Adrian Nandez to All panelists: @Mary Moran, would you be able to share more details of CED’s initiatives to retool SMEs with digitization capacity?

13:16:10          From Charles Finley: As time goes on we should differentiate the survival initiatives from bridging ones as we move back to an interim state,, to long term infrastructure supports and initiatives that will enable a future hybrid/physical economy and way of living that will never be exactly as it was before but will have elements of that past.

13:16:13          From Albert Wong: Can we have a COVID bond system at a local neighbourhood level instead of a national level? Would this have a better effect at the local level?

13:16:17          From Sonja Miokovic: I’m fascinated by the effects on the entire supply chain and the impacts on local agriculture due to the restaurant closures and zero tourists.

13:17:16          From Brian Owen: The issue of business digitization to an online presence and possibly replacing bricks & mortar is a major concern. This is so true with all major convention centres once events realize that they can take the event online and some have done this quite well. already. EcDev created centric to facilities such as Toronto’s MTCC, Congress Centre, Int. Cent and on the international scale such as Javits, McCormick, and Las Vegas CC will be devastated.

13:17:42          From Charles Finley: It is a terrific question – what would Jane Jacobs say…digital enables local business to operate at scale, but that scale can overshadow the uniqueness of a diverse set of small, independent products and experiences.

13:17:45          From Sonja Miokovic: I heard a stat that 3/4 of Canadian potatoes are sold to restaurants….

13:17:56          From Diane Dyson: Except who wants to line up at a Big Box? Physical distancing could as easily be an argument for micro-local dispersed retail.

13:18:12          From Sarah Davies: Will certification training programs get a boost as a result?

13:18:18          From John Jung: Local enforcement on spatial distancing, new zoning procedures, etc need to be addressed now by our urban planners. Are we hearing anything in these areas to help in urban design to aid retail survival and growth?

13:19:15          From Sarah Davies: And will it also increase a situation where for-profit schools can increase their appeal (and predatory practices) as people feel they need to be retrained but aren’t sure where to start?

13:19:24          From Beate Bowron: perhaps the mandate of our existing BIAs can be expanded to begin a cooperative re-vitalization of our retail strips/main streets

13:20:00          From Dina Graser: What are the most effective digital skills retraining initiatives out there? There are a million players in this space, but not clear who’s really doing it well.

13:20:38          From John Stapleton to All panelists: with higher inequality (for the rich – isolation deficit for the poor) how does this plsy itself out in local economies and the public square,

13:21:01          From Devon Franklin to All panelists: @Mary, will share the contact information of panelists? I’d be interested in following-up with Mary and Karen directly.

13:21:35          From John Stapleton to All panelists: isolation dividend for the better off and isolation deficit for the poor – sorry my question was unclear.

13:21:44          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: Today’s panel:

Mark Garner – https://downtownyonge.com

Bruce Katz – https://drexel.edu/nowak-lab/

Mary Moran – https://calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com

Patrick Sullivan – https://halifaxchamber.com

Karen Wong – https://takulabs.io

13:21:49          From Marc Paquet to All panelists: A lot of people fear new technologies. jus

13:22:33          From Paul Bedford: Digital Main Street, that was developed by TABIA, the Toronto Association of BIA’s, was expanded by the Province throughout Ontario through OBIAA, is the best program to take this on. There is already some momentum to take this across Canada.

13:23:16          From Laurel Davies Snyder to All panelists: All 5 City of London BIAs used Digital Main Street. Great potential with this program.

13:24:24          From Franc D’Ambrosio to All panelists: Instead of reasserting mass consumerism, the full force of advertising psychology should be harnessed to repair and recover the damage to peoples’ confidence in transit, shopping streets and other city public functions that is occurring now.

13:25:23          From Marc Paquet to All panelists: tracking people for covid-19 is considered a treat for some persons. But it is a good solution to save our businesses.

13:25:55          From Canadian Urban Institute to All panelists: Panelists: If you’d like to stay on and engage with the chat (which will carry on after the webinar), just stay on and I will hide your video.

13:26:06          From Alexandra Flynn: Do you think the structure and powers of BIAs are sufficient to guide local businesses through this transition – or will changes me needed (e.g. prov bodies rather than city; more revenue power)

13:27:26          From Dina Graser: Social, local and diverse procurement can play a role.

13:27:48          From LoriAnn Girvan to All panelists: COVID-19 ‘lemonade’ must include fixing the highest and best use tax system!

13:27:49          From Diane Dyson: The Quebec government is currently running a Buy Local When You Buy Online campaign.

13:28:05          From Paul Bedford: The City’s BIA Office (Economic Development) will need to come up with a Recovery/Mitigation program like they did with the Crosstown Construction grants that were made available to the Eglinton BIA’s.

13:29:13          From David Katz to All panelists: There is so much wasted energy that we have the technology to recover but we need a new way of looking at life cycle costs and make jobs.

13:29:35          From Gillian Mason: Re Infrastructure investment: We will need excellent systems for preparing people for the building trades, of which there are some examples in Toronto.

13:31:01          From Gillian Mason: Thank you to everyone. Great conversation.

13:31:25          From John Jung: Thanks everyone.

13:31:30          From Geoff Garbutt to All panelists: Thanks for the discussion

13:31:30          From Mohsin Kamal to All panelists: thank you for the engaging conversation, loved Marks point about the use of space!

13:31:47          From Francis Gentoral: Thank you for all the good ideas

13:31:56          From Allan Kean: Thanks everyone. Amazing discussion.

13:32:02          From Salima Rawji: thank you for the conversation!

13:32:11          From Alexandra Flynn: Thank you so much!

13:32:11          From Yvette Jancso: Thank you everyone !

13:32:12          From Monika Rau: Thank you!

13:32:12          From Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie: Thanks all.

13:32:15          From Rick Allwright: Please send the recording out to those registered

13:32:15          From Geoff Garbutt: Stay safe and take care

13:32:21          From Albert Wong: Thank you

13:32:39          From Joanna Crispe to All panelists: Thank you!

13:32:42          From Sara Udow to All panelists: Thank you!

13:32:45          From James Haga to All panelists: Thanks a lot!

13:33:56          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: A recording of this session will be posted at CANURB.ORG/citytalk

13:33:56          From Afie Mardukhi to All panelists: thank you very much, great conversation. Need to include not for profit and service industry in the moving forward strategies.

13:35:01          From Diane Dyson: I was intrigued by the suggestion of profit-sharing between lessees and lessors. We did a version of that in the DECADE pop-up shop community renewal project with landlords who had vacant storefronts. Great talk and chat. Thanks!

13:36:42          From Mohsin Kamal to All panelists: I work for Share the Road Cycling Coalition, following up on Mark’s point about the use of space, if someone could actually weigh-in on the benefits of closing streets to cars for a more mixed-use approach as planning evolves in cities during and post pandemic, will that benefit local businesses in terms of foot traffic?

13:37:33          From Abbe Edelson: Great talk and chat! Coordinating best practices for supporting local economies and developing innovating financing models is key so that post-Covid we are not reproducing the inequities that existed before.

13:44:32          From Canadian Urban Institute: Seems the chat as died down so we’ll close it in 2 minutes if anyone would like to add anything.