On March 3, IEDC sent out a survey to economic development organizations (EDOs) to learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 on the businesses in the community, the role EDOs plan to play, and preparation of health departments to deal with widespread outbreaks. Preliminary results from the data collected during the first week were shared with community leaders in the Seattle region as they battled the spread of COVID-19 in early March.

The survey was sent out again on March 12 to continue to learn about what EDOs are doing as COVID-19 impacts individuals, businesses, and communities more widely. Although the impacts of COVID-19 are changing daily, the results below can help EDOs understand the impacts and challenges other communities are facing .

IEDC is also collecting and analyzing data from state EDOs, and will report them separately.

Below are the results in aggregate.

Businesses have largely been impacted by the requirement to close or reduce their hours, especially in the service industry. This includes small businesses such as bars, restaurants, hair salons, as well as concerts and other large events. Airlines, cruises, and any business connected to travel are all being significantly impacted as well. Many workers in these industries have already lost their job.

With school closings across the country, lack of sufficient childcare is a major concern with so many small children at home now. State EDOs are in communication with local EDOs in their state to share the challenges the businesses in their region are experiencing. They are also working with the state department of health to continue to share information with their communities.

The IEDC survey also prompted several EDOs to conduct their own surveys locally to learn more about how businesses they work with are being impacted.

What solutions have you found?

Solutions to supply chain disruptions include finding alternative suppliers locally and gathering resources from federal agencies to help manufacturers find supply chain products they need.

If you have been in contact with businesses in your region regarding COVID-19, what are their biggest concerns?

The number one concern is loss of revenue as a result of illness among workers, supply chain disruption, and lack of customers due to social distancing. Many businesses cannot survive a drop in business for more than two weeks.

For those businesses who are able to have employees work from home, challenges that come with teleworking, lack of face to face meetings and employee health are all concerns. Due to school closures, lack of childcare is also an issue for both businesses who have employees still working at their place of employment and those working from home.

Travel restrictions are causing businesses that rely on tourism to close or layoff off employees. For businesses that work internationally, visa restrictions and border closure is a major concern. Those in the food industry who are trying to stay open are worried about the safety for the employees and customers. Those working in manufacturing are also worried about supply chain disruptions.

What information are you providing (to your businesses)?

Many EDOs have become a resource portal for the businesses they work with, and the community at large. This includes creating a reference sheet, communicating with the businesses in the community, and sending daily media alerts keeping the community up to date on closures and cancellations. Others have been assisting in sharing information from the federal and state governments to keep their citizens up to date.

One EDO is coordinating with local hospitals in twice-weekly conference calls to stay up to date on the public health of the community. Another hosted a webinar, created a COVID-19 Toolkit for businesses, and sent out a survey to learn about what businesses in their state are doing, all which are available on their website.

In terms of assistance to businesses, some EDOs are assisting with logistics movement, remote working set-ups, stop-gap procedures and continued reminder that the community remains open for business.

Some state EDOs are having conversations about possibilities for funding programs to help offset the costs of business disruption for small businesses.

If your EDO has a plan, what does it entail?

For EDOs internal plan, many have identified what the chain of command and communications will look like if everyone has to work from home. If the office is closed, this plan includes creating an alert on the website, sending an email to your network letting them know your physical office is closed, and how to be reached in the meantime. These plans also include preparations for the increased need for assistance and examining the opportunity for emergency funding, as businesses will be coming to your EDO for assistance at a greater rate. If your EDO travels to meet with clients, what does your new policy consist of.

For a community-wide plan, many EDOS are putting plans into place on how spaces where people congregate will continue to operate. In many states, public areas are being shut down (schools, libraries, government offices), and work is done remotely. Some plans include how quarantine arrangements will work, how to keep the supply of goods moving, and how to keep communities safe. Many EDOs are continuing to communicate with their community on security, funding sources, new protocols and economic impact analysis. Encouraging those in your community to utilize online loan payments, as well as do any work virtually as possible. One EDO said they are in coordination with local hospitals and public health officials, as they are helping to ensure those that need medical attention can receive it.

For businesses, some EDOs are assisting businesses in creating business continuity of operation plans. Internally for the business, this includes determining which staff, materials, procedures, and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep your business operating. Creating a plan for payroll continuity is another important aspect of this planning. Externally, identify your suppliers, shippers, and other important resources. Some EDOs are encouraging businesses to put into place crisis management procedures.

In general, EDOs are putting into place ways to stay healthy, working from home whenever possible, and continuing to communicate updates to their community. Everyone is looking to their state and federal government for guidance on what to do next. One EDO mentioned what to do after this pandemic, how to help the economy recover.

 

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