The Chamber and the Pandemic Response
The Chamber has been sending a lot of information to you about specific loan programs and other resources to help you adapt to a pandemic world. It’s time for me to pull that together for a general overview.
Respond. In early March we started to pivot toward this threat. With the pending then subsequent mandatory government shutdowns in mid-March we were creating resources and communicating funding options to members:
- We created an “Open for Business” page as a platform for area businesses to let the public know about their hours and services. We backed that with a social media campaign. We advocated for less stringent sign code and parking enforcement.
- We focused on ways to keep money in your business. We had conversations with landlords and lenders to understand how flexible they were going to be. We advocated for tax deadline extensions.
- In addition to keeping your money longer, we know many of our companies needed access to capital. In that regard we worked with our Congressional delegation and the U.S. Chamber on what became the CARES Act with its Payroll Protection Plan loan program. We pushed that information out aggressively via webinars with the Greeley and Loveland Chambers and through other avenues. When it was clear the PPP program was under-funded, we advocated for it to be recharged, which Congress did. We also teamed up with the Bohemian Foundation and the City of Fort Collins to create the $5 million Larimer County Small Business Relief Fund.
- With a blizzard of information hitting all of us, we teamed up with other chambers and economic development agencies in the two county area to create a one-stop shop called NoCoRecovers.com.
Reopen. Over the past several weeks we have been pressing for clarity around when local companies can reopen:
- We have helped with that process by creating guidance tools for various industry sectors.
- One barrier for some companies to reopen is the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE). We helped create an online marketplace for companies that have or can make PPE to connect with potential buyers. It is called NoCoSafetySupply.com.
- I am one of three Colorado chamber executives advising the Governor’s Council on Economic Stabilization & Growth. With the input of others, I’ve tried to provide advice to state leaders to safely expedite the reopening of the economy.
Rebuild. The next phase will be to continue to press for the safe reopening of all businesses. With the focus on responding and reopening, we’re just now beginning to have serious conversations about understanding the economic toll to Northern Colorado and to begin to work with other partners on a proactive regional economic development plan. We’ve just taken a fast elevator down 15 stories, and we’re now starting the long, slow trudge back up.
A key element of this phase will be to avoid things getting derailed. We are supporting the work of the U.S. Chamber to seek legal protection for you as you try to reopen. Also, new fees, taxes and mandates on business are the last thing we need.
Over the past couple of months, we have tried to stay in touch with you. Our team has called all 1,200 members. Many of the initiatives cited above were inspired by or informed by your feedback. Keep it up.
And on a final note, crisis response is a team sport. Business, non-profit, government, area chambers, federal and state agencies and many others are partnering to address this situation.
We’re crossing very tough terrain right now, but as a country we’ve done it before. It’s not a trip any of us wanted to take, but as Robert Frost said “The best way out is always through” so on we go.