By the BF Staff
From the September/October 2020 Issue
In March, as the catastrophe that is the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold in the United States, Business Facilities posted its Coronavirus Mission Statement. Here’s part of what we said:
“Our platform is your platform and we are your voice. Tell us what you are doing to confront this crisis and help us showcase the best practices so that everyone can adopt them. Use us to communicate with each other. We’ll shine our spotlight on the locations who’ve found innovative ways to maintain the viability of their communities while we all hunker down.”
The response has been overwhelming, filling the pages of our special cover story in the May/June issue of BF, entitled “COVID-19: Response and Recovery,” with inspiring reports or heroic efforts by EDOs across the country to provide financial lifelines to small businesses and to create new supply chains for desperately needed medical equipment, including personal protection gear used by frontline healthcare workers.
BF will keep our online form for COVID-19 response submissions open for the duration of this crisis and we’ll keep giving you updates in each of our issues until this hideous disease is wiped out. Here’s the latest.
TRUE GRIT, RESILIENCE IN LUBBOCK, TX
Over time, Lubbock’s community spirit paired with West Texas grit, and resilience has been what set the city apart, specifically during challenging times. As any newcomer will notice and old-timer attest, Lubbock organizations consistently show they care by investing in the people and businesses that make up the community.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Lubbock exhibited the true depth of its commitment to its locals through a plethora of mediums, including a city-wide certification program promoting health and safety standards, a $1 million micro-grant program awarded to over 250 struggling sole proprietors and impacted workers affected by the public health crisis, and a relief fund of $2 million that helped local small businesses bridge the gap during these challenging times.
Early in the pandemic as Lubbockites began to experience financial hardships, the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) board of directors quickly recognized the need to provide assistance to small businesses and established the Support Lubbock Fund, a $2 million fund in partnership with Market Lubbock, Inc. and South Plains Association of Governments (SPAG) with the purpose of providing support to Lubbock’s small businesses.
“We know Lubbock’s small businesses are experiencing very difficult times, and the Support Lubbock Fund is meant to help them during this in-between time as we all work together to bring back our economy,” John Osborne, president and CEO of LEDA and Market Lubbock, Inc., said when the fund was announced on April 22.
Within days of the fund’s creation, relief money was distributed to local businesses with gross annual revenues of less than $5 million. The collective sigh of relief was almost audible. A total of 59 small businesses received loans ranging from $20,000 to $60,000, depending on the gross annual revenue of the company and the amount needed. These businesses represented a broad range of industries, from retail to manufacturing, and more. The $2 million fund was fully deployed throughout the community within 13 days.
In June, the City of Lubbock and Market Lubbock, Inc. announced the City of Lubbock Public Health Emergency Microgrant Support Program, allocating $1 million to provide financial assistance with working capital to both sole proprietors and independent contractors. Recipients of the microgrant utilized the funding to aid business costs, including overhead operations, payroll and rent. For workers negatively impacted by the public health emergency, funds were also utilized as a personal income replacement. The application was open for one week, and in that time over 400 impacted workers applied for assistance, with 302 applicants receiving financial assistance of $4,000. In the end, the City of Lubbock was able to fund the remaining 108 applicants through other means of financial assistance programs. The microgrant funding was allocated in three separate categories, including 40 percent of funds awarded to those with an annual revenue below $25,000; 35 percent between $25,000 and $50,000; and 25 percent to those between $50,000 and $75,000.
The financial assistance offered to the Lubbock community represented much more than dollars in bank accounts. It protected the livelihoods of hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people. It ensured local companies could continue to run their businesses in the face of adversity. It was made clearer than ever that in Lubbock they were in it together.
As business resumed and visitors began to ease their way back to travel to the “Hub City”, the City of Lubbock launched Lubbock Safe!, a voluntary certification program designed for local businesses to promote the safety of their storefront while giving the community and visitors the assurance that Lubbock retailers, restaurants and other businesses are exceeding the minimum state standards to reopen. Locals and visitors alike can find security as Lubbockites work to promote the health and safety of all who enjoy this great city.
These efforts are a true testament to the collective approach of Lubbock citizens, businesses and government entities standing together during tough times. It is one example of the way Lubbock takes on adversity. During the COVID-19 pandemic, high school seniors were confronted with the reality that the final days of their time in school wouldn’t look as they imagined. And yet, one Lubbock resident started an Adopt-a-Senior program via Facebook and paired volunteers in the community with high school seniors, ensuring these students enjoyed all the congratulations and celebration they deserved. Another effort to support its local small businesses and medical community emerged as Lubbock’s soon-to-be new business, H-E-B, teamed up with Favor Delivery to order from local restaurants and deliver free, surprise meals to medical staff. Market Street grocery store helped two local businesses by selling their food in the deli for its patrons to purchase in support. Local wineries donated alcohol to suppliers making hand sanitizer. Community members banded together and produced masks to gift local healthcare providers. Also, Lubbock businesses received free, expert guidance on accessing disaster relief assistance during COVID-19 through the Hub City Small Business Triage.
Along with several local businesses, one downtown establishment experienced firsthand the unending support from locals. This craft brewhouse truly turned lemons into lemonade—adult lemonade that is. It is no secret that this favorite local brewery is an expert in all things craft beer. As a result of COVID-19, The Brewery LBK took to the taps to brainstorm ways to continue providing the same level of high-quality service and products. Because the Lubbock community showed up, The Brewery LBK is proudly serving, canning and taking to-go orders for beers, hard lemonades and adult popsicles.
During an interview on the Hub City Spokes podcast, a podcast produced by LEDA highlighting business owners in Lubbock, Mike Nghiem, general manager of the West Table Kitchen and Bar, and Sally Taylor, head brewer at The Brewery LBK, said they owe their successes during this challenging time to the people of Lubbock. By adding new, unique items to their menu, the customer base grew and they were humbled by the positive responses they received from the public. Each can of their flagship IPA bottled a sense of normalcy that played an integral role in the lives of many.
Lubbock’s resilience and determination to provide hope for a better future for its entirety was not uncharacteristic of the city. It is ingrained in what defines the “Hub City”. Lubbock’s history was built by pioneers who worked as hard for their neighbors as they did for themselves. Today is no different.
MICHIGAN WIELDS ARSENAL OF INNOVATION AGAINST COVID-19
As one of the states hardest hit by COVID-19, the resulting public health and economic crisis has negatively impacted companies, communities and the workforce throughout Michigan. In response, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has moved swiftly to create and leverage existing programs to support frontline workers combatting the virus, along with providing economic support to the companies and individuals alike.
This includes establishing 19 COVID-19-specific relief programs focused on supporting small businesses, reopening downtown districts and stabilizing the state’s startup ecosystem. To date, these efforts have supported 3,500 businesses and helped retain 15,400 jobs across every county in the state. Of that support, 42 percent has gone to disadvantaged areas as well as helping produce 1.2 million units of PPE.
These efforts to stand up relief and response programs has positioned Michigan as a national leader in its ability to respond quickly—and effectively—to the virus. These short-term relief efforts also have created a foundation for a long-term economic recovery in the state that focuses on rebuilding an equitable and resilient economy.
Michigan boasts a proud reputation for its innovative spirit, and for stepping up when the chips are down. In 2020, the state again rose to beat the odds as its businesses and workers unleashed the state’s ‘Arsenal of Innovation’ to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Traverse City-based TentCraft, which had never manufactured products for the healthcare or medical industries, transitioned to making PPE products. Through support from MEDC’s Pure Michigan Business Connect COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grant, TentCraft was able to keep its employees on the job while producing essential supplies desperately needed by healthcare workers.
Additionally, manufacturers across the state identified new business opportunities to assist with filling the PPE demand by producing sanitizer, face masks, medical gowns and more.
The Detroit City Distillery adapted its manufacturing facility to produce hand sanitizer for healthcare institutions, municipalities and other organizations.
National Filters, Inc. retooled and purchased new machinery at its facility in Harbor Beach to produce healthcare equipment critical to COVID-19 relief efforts.
In the northern reaches of the Upper Peninsula, Calumet Electronics worked around the clock to meet the demands of the healthcare industry by producing circuit boards for ventilators.
Petoskey Plastics worked with the state to produce isolation gowns for hospitals thanks to connections made by the Pure Michigan Business Connect Virtual Procurement and Donation Platform.
As a result of this comprehensive effort from businesses, workers, startups and communities, Michigan is now transitioning from a state of crisis relief to economic recovery. At the MEDC, efforts continue to be guided by its mission to enable long-term economic prosperity for all Michiganders. In working to address inequities in the state’s economy, MEDC puts an emphasis on opportunities that support small to medium-sized businesses, providing affordable housing and empowering economic growth in every region, from rural areas to urban cores.
The pandemic underscored the importance of these elements and the need for recovery efforts moving forward to enable these opportunities. In working to build programs to advance the state’s recovery, Michigan is strengthening its commitment to address inequities and focus on collaborative efforts that foster equitable growth by creating high-wage jobs and identifying opportunities to get more of its workforce on a path to good jobs.
The MEDC is continuing to work with Michigan businesses and pursue competitive business growth deals, allowing the state to recuperate from the crisis at hand and create a runway for economic recovery. Combined with a message that the Pure Michigan quality of life can’t be beat, these efforts are positioning Michigan as national destination to live, work and play and helping secure competitive business deals—including the recently announced expansions by Bridgewater Interiors and Magna International.
By helping reinvigorate small businesses, supporting diverse and vibrant communities and empowering workers and their families, Michigan is rebuilding its overall economy so that every single resident has the chance to truly thrive in Michigan. Because if one thing has proven true throughout 2020, it is that Michigan is a home for opportunity, no matter what.
SELF-ADMINISTERED SWABS NOW AVAILABLE FROM KIOSKS IN TEXAS
Curative, Inc. plans to open their third U.S. lab facility in the country at 1700 Royston in Pflugerville, TX, providing coronavirus testing and beginning the first roll-out of mobile testing kiosks in Texas with a self-administered oral fluid swab.
“We were fortunate to work with Opportunity Austin and find a home for Curative, Inc., who is delivering a fast, safe and painless sample collection method for Texas residents,” said Amy Madison, Executive Director of the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation.
“The company selected our area to access a capable workforce with plans to hire their first 150 technicians and healthcare workers in the next few weeks in order to process 10,000 samples daily,” she added.
Curative, Inc., which has lab facilities in Washington, DC and Los Angeles, California, will hire over 300 workers to provide immediate response to the COVID-19 testing needed throughout the Lone Star State. In July, Curative Inc. began providing the new self-administered oral fluid testing to the City of Pflugerville during the free walk-up testing site at Pflugerville Pfield.
“Once again Pflugerville is on the forefront with the fight against COVID-19, as Curative Inc. brings their new kiosk technology and laboratory to Pflugerville to increase COVID-19 testing, expedite result availability and create jobs in our community,” Mayor Victor Gonzales said.
The new process was developed by the company as an alternative to nasal or nasopharyngeal swab testing for COVID-19 and emphasizes fast turnaround times of 24-48 hours, according to company officials.
“We are proud to bring our third laboratory to Pflugerville to support COVID-19 testing locally and to improve testing capacity for the entire state. The great workforce, location and community partnership opportunities made Pflugerville an easy choice for expanding our laboratory operations,” said Fred Turner, Curative Inc.’s CEO.
While at the drive thru, kiosk or mobile van, individuals are instructed to cough three times and then run a swab on the inside of their cheeks for 20 seconds. Once complete, the patient seals their sample and deposits it into the indicated container, the patient will receive test results within 24 to 48 hours. The entire Curative test is done without having to come into close contact with others, therefore eliminating the need for PPE changes.
To date, Curative has processed more than 4 million samples nationwide and is scaling to test 1 million samples per week. Curative provides an end-to-end testing solution, from sourcing of materials and kit distribution, training healthcare workers for test deployment, processing samples in the laboratory and sending patient results.
The University of Texas’ Austin Technology Incubator is leading a new consortium of more than 50 health care organizations from around the state working to combat COVID-19. Funded by the Austin-based incubator PandemicTech, the consortium is focused on the immediate need for health care innovation related to COVID-19.
Central Texas-based biotechnology startup, Industrial Genetics, has launched proprietary genetic testing technology to identify COVID-19 on surfaces and in wastewater. Infectious disease experts have encouraged testing of wastewater systems to monitor outbreaks.
BATTLING COVID-19 IN ILLINOIS
The State of Illinois has enacted an aggressive response to the COVID-19 crisis. Through a series of initiatives launched since March, Gov. JB Pritzker moved swiftly to enact a public health response and mitigations designed to reduce risk and to expand testing and contact tracing in order to pave the way to a safe reopening of the state.
Illinois’ COVID-19 website is a hub for up-to-date information and resources. The state government is working closely with local health departments, city and county officials and federal partners to create and modify new systems as COVID-19 evolves.
Guiding the state’s response, Restore Illinois is the five-phase plan to reopen, driven by health metrics and with distinct business, education and recreation activities characterizing each phase. The administration and its public health leadership worked with hundreds of businesses—from small business to Fortune 500 giants—industry groups and community officials to gain input on these plans. The plan is based upon regional healthcare availability, and it recognizes the distinct impact COVID-19 has had on different regions as well as regional variations in hospital capacity. More recently, the state has introduced additional mitigation efforts to protect high-risk communities, and to start to again bend the curve of the virus where it has resurged. The framework will update as research and science develop and as the potential for treatments or vaccines are realized.
In response to the significant economic burden COVID-19 has placed upon businesses and communities statewide, Illinois has launched many new programs and expanded access to benefits during the crisis, including over $500 million in assistance for small businesses, rent and mortgage relief, utility and household relief and availability of new capital, sourced from the state’s $45-billion capital program, Rebuild Illinois.
These efforts aim to accelerate construction that has slowed from the crisis, and to help businesses rebuild and restore from recent damages in connection to civil unrest. To date, thousands of businesses have received funding, and more assistance remains available to sustain the response in the months to come. Additionally, the Pritzker administration has continued to take action to address the record unemployment and to help boost skills training with numerous investments to expand its apprenticeships programs, and to provide workforce training for entry into more than 1,300 COVID-19 related roles recently made available.
Programs administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity include:
- Business Interruption Grant Program (BIG), an unprecedented economic recovery program, it will deploy $636 million for businesses hit hardest by the pandemic. More than $49 million has been released to over 2,800 businesses spanning 400 communities. The program is based on an equity framework—with over half of the funds strategically deployed to minority owned companies and areas of the state that are most economically distressed. A second round of over $220 million will help deploy more relief for businesses which have been unable to operate, or are doing so at diminished capacities.
- Downstate Small Business Stabilization, a $20 million program offering grants of up to $25,000 available for small businesses that employ 50 people or less outside of Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, McHenry County, Madison, Kane, St. Clair and Will County.
- Rebuild Distressed Communities, a $25 million economic recovery program to support Illinois businesses that have sustained property damage as a result of civil unrest on or after May 25th, 2020, and to support communities with capital investments to promote resiliency.
- Fast Track Capital, a $25 million program to help local governments and municipalities accelerate planned construction projects. Recognizing that cities and counties have faced extreme losses, the program directs funds to jumpstart 17 major capital projects across the state, putting hundreds of Illinoisans back to work in the process.
- Hospitality Emergency Grants, a $14 million program has provided fast grants to the hospitality sector, with funds released to help with working capital for over 700 bars, restaurants and hotels across the state.
Illinois’ business, innovation and academic communities have stepped up tremendously to fight against the disease and help lift the state. From developing vaccines, treatments and tests to manufacturing face masks and PPE, there are countless stories of leadership and heroism from Illinois-own companies and organizations. For example, Illinois-based Abbott is distributing six different COVID-19 tests under FDA emergency use authorization, getting new tests into the hands of frontline workers so people can receive the critical results they need. A group from leading Chicago incubators mHUB, 1871, MATTER and their related networks came together to develop unique, immediate and innovative solutions to fighting the pandemic. The group created the Chicago Proactive Response (CPR) COVID-19, an effort mobilizing the larger tech ecosystem to fight the pandemic by producing things such as new respirators, open source face shields and air purification devices. Additionally, researchers at the University of Illinois created a groundbreaking COVID-19 saliva test which will soon be used across the country. The I-COVID test yields results in a matter of hours at high testing volumes and also was granted emergency approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Additionally, the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund, a collaboration established between the United Way of Illinois, the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations and Gov. Pritzker has helped individuals, families and communities throughout the state. The fund distributed more than $30 million to 62 nonprofit organizations across the state. An extraordinary group of founding donors—including corporations and foundations—came together in an unparalleled way to provide immediate relief to Illinois families.
AllInIllinois, a collaboration between the Office of Gov. Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency aimed to keep Illinoisans safe at home by featuring prominent Illinoisans.
“We’re making a commitment to stay home because we’re All In for Illinois—for our neighbors and grandparents, our health care professionals and first responders, our grocery store workers and so many more. Staying in keeps us all safe,” Gov. Pritzker said.
NEW JERSEY HELPS RESTAURANTS, STORES CONVERT TO ECOMMERCE
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) launched a pilot E-Commerce Technical Assistance Program in June to help New Jersey restaurants, retail stores and personal care businesses continue to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Authority has engaged the services of Hudson Integrated, Positive Solutions and Suasion Communications Group to help businesses that normally rely on foot traffic and in-person transactions to identify and implement the website and ecommerce capabilities they need to stay in business while complying with current health guidelines and changing customer preferences.
The Ecommerce Technical Assistance Program will provide a variety of services for businesses, including designing and implementing electronic systems for placing orders, processing payments and booking appointments to train business owners and staff to effectively use these new tools.
The providers are committed to making a good faith effort to ensure one-third of the clients they serve are located within approved Opportunity Zone-eligible census tracts and to focus on serving small, women-, minority-, veteran- and disabled veteran-owned businesses. A map showing the targeted census tracts is available.
Morristown, NJ-based Hudson Integrated offers brand and design, web development, digital strategy and e-commerce solutions for businesses. In March, the agency launched its new, customizable “Resilience Digital Packages,” specifically designed to help traditionally offline businesses harness the power of digital technology to adapt and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located in Robbinsville, NJ, Positive Solutions is a full-service marketing and public relations agency. For more than 13 years, the woman-owned firm has worked closely with clients in a variety of sectors to help them expand their businesses through marketing, social media, website development and management and digital advertising. The firm also has experience creating materials in multiple languages that accommodate New Jersey’s diverse population.
Suasion Communications Group is a woman-owned, full-service marketing and public relations agency with offices in Somers Point and Haddonfield. For the past 13 years, Suasion has executed award-winning branding, public relations, digital and marketing campaigns to clients in a broad range of industries. Suasion offers a complete suite of communications services that drive traffic, improve brand awareness and increase sales through customer acquisition and retention. Suasion’s services include brand strategy, public relations, digital marketing, creative design and crisis management.
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