On Thursday October 29th, NEDA brought together community and business leaders from around the northeast to discuss “Reopening Realities: Small Business Needs - Supporting Small, Minority & Women Owned Businesses in the Age of COVID.” As the economic recovery from the pandemic continues on an uncertain trajectory, business and community leaders shared first hand data from the first six months of the pandemic, lessons learned, and how that is informing what new steps their communities or organizations are taking to shore up support for businesses while remaining safe and healthy. The topics discussed were familiar to economic developers – transportation-oriented development, equity, festival and events and gap financing, among others - however these same topics have a renewed sense of urgency or perhaps a new perspective as the pandemic lingers in our work.
One of the most striking takeaways from the webinar was the absolutely critical role that local partners play on the ground for their businesses. When the Upstate New York Black Chamber of Commerce realized that their members were struggling to access the Paycheck Protection Program, the organization stepped in to provide gap financing to keep businesses afloat. And while recovery is on everyone's mind, the Upstate New York Black Chamber of Commerce is also working on policy and programmatic updates with legislators to create lasting change in our governing institutions. Other stories shared included how downtown festivals and events can be adapted for pandemic safety precautions and how communities are preparing their businesses for the holiday season. It is clear that the economic development profession has adapted their skillset to respond to current needs of the business community, playing many roles as communities work towards economic recovery during these challenging times. You can review a recording of the discussion here.