The Orillia Area Community Development Corporation (CDC) issued 75 loans in the first year of the pandemic, providing over $2.5 million in COVID-19 relief funding to 59 area businesses through a federal program.

Orillia CDC general manager Wendy Timpano gave city council an overview of the organization’s economic development work at this week’s meeting.

“We provide business loans, we provide business coaching, we work on a number of professional development workshops and training,” Timpano said. “We do community economic development projects, and we’re also involved in some community strategic planning as well.”

The organization currently has around 145 loan files — many of which were given to businesses at critical points in the pandemic.

One such business was The Common Stove, who were able to access a Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) loan through the Orillia CDC as the pandemic broke out.

“They had been in business three weeks before the closures, if you can imagine. That’s probably very, very stressful, I would think, for an entrepreneur to have to close their doors three weeks after opening, so we were happy to be able to support them,” Timpano said.

“Hotels, resorts, tourism businesses were significantly impacted  through COVID-19, so we’re happy to help them.”

Through administering the federal RRRF program, the Orillia CDC maintained 147 local jobs, including 36 businesses led by women and 11 led by youth.

Over 160 youth, as well, have benefited from a six-month wage subsidy program through the Orillia CDC, which connects youth with “quality full-time work.”

Although the organization typically issues funds in the form of loans, Timpano said they sometimes issue small grants through their community capacity building fund.

Since 2011, over $250,000 in grants have been issued to 176 applicants in the area.

Beyond issuing loans and grants, Timpano highlighted the Orillia CDC’s business coaching and training programs.

Since 2012, along with 22 other partner organizations, they have offered nearly 200 workshops to more than 4,300 participants.

“We (also) provide ongoing business coaching, and community connections. It’s not uncommon for us at the CDC to hold anywhere from 50 to 60 one-on-one, in-depth business coaching meetings per month,” Timpano said.

Another program the Orillia CDC offers is the BizLink program, which connects business owners looking to sell their businesses with others who are looking to buy.

“It has really taken off, we are seeing a definite spike in the number of businesses who are looking to sell or transition out of business. We are also seeing a number of buyers who are interested in buying those businesses,” Timpano said. “Over the past few years … we’ve assisted with 79 of those business transitions in our community.”

Since beginning in 1984, the Orillia CDC has invested over $34 million into the community and surrounding area, and offers its services and programming in partnership with various levels of government, as well as local organizations and municipalities.

Following the deputation, Coun. David Campbell expressed strong support for the Orillia CDC.

“I appreciate the work that your group does. I’ve heard from businesses in the community that they simply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for your support,” Campbell said. “On a personal note, working with you on the economic recovery task force was an absolute pleasure. You brought a lot to the table and I appreciate the support through that, as well.”