By the Business Facilities Editorial Staff
From the May/June 2020 Issue
As the grim reality of the COVID-19 pandemic overtook us in New Jersey in the middle of March, Business Facilities moved quickly to transition to a fully remote digital workflow. Before we closed our office and headed home—it seems like eons ago now—we posted our 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.”
Your COVID-19 response has been overwhelming and inspiring, and we’re not just talking about the dozens of reports we received from locations across the country. Economic development organizations and local businesses have joined forces to assist healthcare workers on the front lines by creating new supply chains for critical medical equipment, recruiting area businesses to manufacture PPE, ventilators and other essentials. EDOs large and small have thrown a lifeline to small businesses, making themselves the point of contact to help facilitate the delivery of billions in federal relief money, as well as a plethora of new state, county and metro grant and loan programs for businesses.
In the darkest days of the last World War, someone once said of the people who won that war: This was their Finest Hour. So it is now with our community, and our only regret is that we don’t have enough pages to tell you everything that everyone is doing. Stay safe!
MOUNTING A FULL-COURT PRESS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 CRISIS
As the COVID-19 emergency unfolded, clothing designers, textile manufacturers, breweries and a host of other companies across Alabama quickly pivoted their daily operations to turn out protective gear, medical equipment and hand sanitizer.
Cullman County’s HomTex shifted from producing luxury linens to filtered face masks, turning out more than 1 million. A partnership between Birmingham wedding dress designer Heidi Elnora and Moulton’s Red Land Cotton produced and distributed more than 15,000 face masks. Florence, AL clothing company Alabama Chanin, known for its high-end fashion, began producing reusable masks.
Boeing, Airbus, Mercedes-Benz and other major industrial employers redeployed resources to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals and first responders. Toyota’s Huntsville engine factory produced 7,500 protective face shields for local hospitals. Honda engineers also stepped up to utilize 3-D printers to manufacture face shields for health care workers.
When the first COVID-19 cases were detected in AL, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed issued an urgent appeal to industry leaders for help in locating testing resources. Hyundai Alabama coordinated the delivery of 10,000 COVID-19 tests developed by Seegene, a South Korean molecular diagnostics firm, to enhance critical testing efforts in the Montgomery region. Also, the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program donated $200,000 to the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) to expand testing efforts.
Alabama’s research institutions and universities were quick to join the effort against COVID-19. Birmingham-based Southern Research is working with a NY-based biopharma company to test a potential coronavirus vaccine.
UAB is home to the Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center, or AD3C, which played a leading role in the development of the first drug cleared by the FDA for treatment of the coronavirus, remdesivir. UAB is collaborating with pharma firm Altimmune on pre-clinical trials of a candidate vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
Huntsville’s Diatherix developed a highly sensitive test for the virus and Birmingham’s BioGX developed a test to detect the presence of the virus on an automated molecular diagnostic platform that gets speedy results.
A researcher at The University of Alabama in Huntsville is part of an elite team effort involving the world’s fastest supercomputer to screen compounds for effectiveness against COVID-19.
Dr. Jerome Baudry, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at UAH, is involved in a project that is utilizing the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Summit supercomputer to examine the compounds, with a focus on drugs already approved for other uses.
Meanwhile, at Auburn University, engineers developed a method to convert CPAP machines into emergency ventilators. The device, called RE-InVENT, can be assembled in four hours using about $700 worth of parts in addition to a standard CPAP machine (compared to the typical hospital ventilator priced at $25,000 or more). Auburn teamed with a Huntsville-based defense contractor, Integrated Solutions for Systems (IS4S), to assemble more than 100 of the RE-InVENT devices in a matter of days.
In April, Missouri’s Department of Economic Development (DED), in partnership with the Missouri Hospital Association, launched a PPE Marketplace. The public/private initiative matches those who are selling PPE with Missouri companies that need to purchase PPE. The platform was built using Google Cloud, in partnership with Quantifi.
As of April 29, there were 269 registered suppliers from all over the nation and 1,164 registered Missouri buyers, including hospitals, psychiatric facilities, nursing homes, dentists, adult-day care, pharmacies and EMS.
Missouri’s PPE Marketplace raced from idea to implementation in only 14 days; the marketplace was cited by Vice President Mike Pence during a press briefing at the White House; the Missouri DED team that developed the platform attended a WebEx meeting with Admiral John Polowczyk, who is leading the federal supply chain task force.
Phase 2 of the PPE marketplace, which began at the end of April, puts raw materials suppliers from around the world in touch with U.S. manufacturers—not just Missouri manufacturers. Polowczyk hailed Missouri’s program as an example of the national effort to onshore the manufacturing of personal protection equipment.
When Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb asked the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to help spearhead efforts to secure PPE, the initial focus of the effort was to get desperately needed supplies to front-line healthcare workers. “Our initial goal was to secure medical grade PPE for our front-line workers and we’ve been able to do that for the most part,” said Luke Bosso, IEDC chief of staff.
IEDC’s push to get PPE has been so robust that by early May small businesses across the state were given access to a new PPE marketplace as they prepared to reopen. As of May 5, IEDC said it had secured over 9 million pieces of PPE, with over 3 million items already distributed to Indiana businesses in need of the equipment.
The marketplace is a secondary source for Indiana businesses with under 150 employees to find PPE, including bundles of masks, face shields and bottles of hand sanitizer, free of charge. The PPE used for the marketplace will be manufactured and sourced from Indiana businesses that have stepped up to help create supplies.
“The IEDC can open the marketplace in part because the state has been able to procure additional surgical masks that cannot be used in a medical setting, and also because Hoosier businesses have stepped up to make enough hand sanitizer and face shields for all uses,” Bosso said.
State officials encourage businesses to only use the marketplace as a backup if they cannot find PPE from other sources. At press time, Indiana’s PPE marketplace was filling up to 10,000 orders.
This month, Gov. Gary Herbert announced the launch of Utah’s PPE Push Pack program to support small businesses in the transition to “moderate risk” COVID-19 protocols. Through a public/private partnership, the program provides a free, one-week supply of PPE to sole proprietors and businesses with less than 50 employees across the state.
“The ability for businesses to obtain and utilize personal protective equipment for their employees is critical in helping Utahns get back to work and stay at work,” Gov. Herbert said. “As Utah moves into the stabilization phase, using PPE to protect businesses and those they serve is a vital element of our recovery. This program is intended to jump start that transition while businesses line up long-term supplies.”
The Beehive State’s Utah Leads Together plan encourages telework wherever possible during the high-risk, moderate-risk and even low-risk phases, but also recognizes that telework is not possible in all sectors of Utah’s economy. PPE is crucial to preventing infections in workplaces that cannot operate remotely, including those in the retail, personal care and hospitality industries.
TRACKING THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON BUSINESSES ACROSS A REGION
As states across the nation race to establish adequate testing, tracking and PPE resources essential to efforts to contain the virus, the staggering scope of the economic calamity caused by the pandemic is coming into focus.
Measuring the extent of the impact of this unprecedented crisis on a region’s businesses is an essential first step on the road to recovery; several states are conducting wide-ranging surveys to gather this critical data.
A statewide COVID-19 business survey administered three times thus far by Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) and its economic development partners is informing Delaware’s responses to the pandemic and its plan for recovery. Survey responses in each round have been well-distributed geographically and by sector, with all three Delaware counties and key Delaware industries represented.
“Delaware’s was one of the first COVID-19 surveys in the field,” noted Kurt Foreman, DPP president and CEO. “In addition to the qualitative information DPP is gathering by hearing firsthand from businesses throughout the state, the quantitative survey helps inform how we can best support businesses as Delaware navigates its way to a full recovery.”
The first round of the survey was conducted March 20-24, before non-essential businesses closed, and had 320 respondents. The third round of the Delaware business COVID-19 response survey was conducted from April 27-30 and resulted in responses from 285 Delaware businesses. New questions for this round of the survey included those regarding the status of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Here are some key results:
- 39 percent of respondents applied for an SBA Economic Disaster Injury loan; of those businesses, 23 percent were successful in securing a loan, 16 percent were unsuccessful and 62 percent had pending applications.
- 61 percent of respondents applied for the PPP; of those businesses, 48 percent were successful in securing funding, eight percent were unsuccessful and 44 percent had pending applications.
Among respondents who secured PPP funding, the average grant was nearly $400,000, with a median grant amount of about $100,000. Collectively, this funding allowed respondents to retain about 2,400 of their employees and rehire another 331 employees.
Among respondents whose businesses were open, supply chains still seemed relatively intact, the third Delaware survey reported. On average, respondents indicated they were able to ship and receive more than 78 percent of goods and services, up from about 70 percent in the second survey. Figures were largely similar, looking at results by business size. Collectively, there have been about 1,900 separations (furloughs, layoffs and terminations) at responding businesses, accounting for about 17 percent of the total workforce among responding businesses in the third survey (compared with 13 percent in the second survey). While most of the job losses have been in retail, restaurants, hotels and entertainment/ recreational facilities, the DE survey reports there have been downsizings in nearly every industry.
More than 80 percent of respondents to the latest survey indicated a decline in revenue. On average, respondents indicated their business could survive for about 12 weeks; however, about one-quarter of respondents said they could survive four weeks or less.
Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) teamed with Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, the Division of Small Business and business membership organizations throughout the state to conduct seven virtual Recovery Town Hall sessions in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Following coordinated outreach by state legislators and local chambers of commerce, approximately 1,000 small business owners and employees attended the events, each of which covered a different geographic area across Delaware’s three counties.
Comments overwhelmingly centered on participants’ eagerness to reopen and to follow any necessary precautions, protocols and procedures. Many also outlined the extensive measures they already had taken in preparation for reopening. In response to input gathered from these sessions, Gov. John Carney issued an order with interim guidelines that allowed a number of businesses to reopen May 8 in a modified fashion until requirements for a Phase I reopening were met.
The Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (LVGEA), Southern Nevada’s regional development authority, formed the Nevada Business Information Network (BIN), a statewide network of business, industry, trade and economic development organizations working together in partnership with the Office of the Governor to share information and provide resources to Nevada businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ORGS STEP IN TO AUGMENT FEDERAL AID
As massive federal relief funds to businesses began flowing from the CARES Act, a plethora of new loan and grant programs were initiated by state, county and metro economic development organizations to augment the federal funding and help local businesses. Here are just a few examples:
In Maryland, the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) selected 25 local recipients to receive maker and manufacturing grant awards totaling $200,000 from the newly created Local Production Fund. The Local Production Fund was created to provide local small and medium-sized manufacturers/producers with the working capital necessary to make and provide essential personal protective equipment (PPE) and other COVID-19 related products. The grants range in size from $2,500 to $25,000 and will produce face shields, face masks, hand sanitizers, home cleansers, gowns and COVID-19 testing kits, among other items.
Juan Carlos Castillo, owner of Tierra Floral Design and Tierra Events, used a Local Production fund grant to pivot from creating elaborate floral arrangements and planning events to a new role making PPE. “Thanks to the Local Production Fund grant, we have been able to access all the materials we need to produce face shields for first responders,” said Castillo, whose company received a $20,000 grant.
Aisha Khadar of Sha’s Creations, a maker of organic body products, also expressed gratitude for the infusion of funds. “This grant allows our company to manufacture hand sanitizer and liquid disinfecting soaps for our community,” said Khadar.
The 25 grant recipients are a diverse group with 73 percent of the funding awarded to companies led by women or minority entrepreneurs. The awardees are located in Silver Spring, Germantown, Bethesda/North Bethesda, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Olney, Potomac, Dickerson and Clarksburg.
In Topeka, KS a public-private partnership was formed called Helping Others Support Topeka (HOST). Through private donations from local businesses and individuals, and matching public funds through GO Topeka, the HOST Relief program has been able to provide sustainable support and capital to local businesses of Topeka and Shawnee County.
GO Topeka was able to secure $1 million of public dollars to complement the private dollars raised. To date, $655,000 has been raised by private donations. The private dollars are being used to purchase gift cards from local businesses that are then distributed to other businesses throughout Topeka and Shawnee County. These gift cards are to be given to their displaced workers to assist them during this time. Businesses also are able to apply for the public side of the HOST Relief Fund, where they could be eligible to receive up to $5,000 in grants.
“These grants will provide aid to those most affected by the challenges brought by COVID-19,” says Molly Howey, president of GO Topeka. “It is GO Topeka’s hope that the HOST Relief Program can give small businesses and displaced workers in Shawnee County some hope for the future. We are committed to giving this community the support it needs to make it through these hardships.”
In Texas, the City of Harlingen and the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation (EDC) set aside $1 million to launch Harlingen’s Emergency Loan Program (HELP) for Small Business. The HEDC will provide the emergency loans at zero percent interest to qualified businesses. Repayment of the loans will start a year after the funds are disbursed. “Our business community is so interconnected and when businesses are hurting, it impacts others as well,” said Mickey Boland, HEDC President.
“The decision to approve this program wasn’t a difficult choice to make. Business owners have dedicated their time and lives to providing a service to us, our community, and they are hurting. HELP can give them the assistance they need right now,” he added.
The HELP program allocated its initial traunch of $200,000 to about 20 applicants; four additional loan awards will be made every two weeks. The Harlingen EDC also conducted an Economic Impact Survey to assess the needs of the city.
“After reviewing the responses and personally reaching out to those who took the survey, we knew we had to do something,” said Raudel Garza, HEDC CEO. “Our number one priority has always been to grow and sustain our business community. We hope that HELP does just that, help those small business owners who need it most.”
Applicants may receive up to $10,000, and in order to qualify for the loan they must have applied for the SBA’s EIDL or PPP loans through a local lender and either have been rejected or declined the loan; they must also show a loss of revenues greater than 25 percent during the COVID-19 crisis period versus last year (new businesses must provide evidence of extreme hardship). Eligible businesses must have less than 25 employees in Harlingen and commit to keeping their business in Harlingen.
In North Carolina, COVID PIVOT Impact Loans are being administered by the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments in conjunction with the Person County Economic Development Commission. Loans are available in amounts of $2,500 to $10,000. To qualify as a small business under the program guidelines, a business must have less than 50 employees and be principally based in the county.
SHARING THE LOVE LOCALLY
While federal and state efforts have been centered on funneling relief dollars to sustain the economy until lockdowns no longer are needed, community efforts have focused on marshalling local resources to share the love with local businesses.
In Florida, Six Pillars Broward (Broward County’s long-range strategic visioning initiative for economic development) has launched iLoveLocal2020, a Six Pillars Broward 90-day strategic initiative to provide an economic stimulus to businesses in Broward County.
iLoveLocal2020 is a community collaborative engaging businesses, chambers of commerce, non-profits, educators, cities, the arts community and other organizations to work cooperatively to promote safe work environments, instill consumer confidence to jump-start local consumer spending and to sustain local businesses while promoting Certified Small Businesses as new sources for products and services.
To address the critical supply shortage of PPE in South Florida, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance developed a database that included local PPE manufacturers and distributors as well as equipment availability, indicating whether the company was donating or selling the equipment. This list was shared with health care institutions, philanthropic and non-governmental organizations.
About 95 percent of the local businesses in Indian River County, FL are considered small businesses, most with less than 50 employees. The Indian River County Chamber of Commerce, based in Vero Beach, is encouraging residents to support local businesses through social media campaigns, including weekly “Take Out Tuesdays” and “What’s For Dinner Fridays.”
The Chamber’s website is providing the latest information on the status of more than 120 area restaurants, including whether these businesses offer takeout and/or delivery. The Chamber’s GIS-based website includes pinpoint locations and contact information.
Indian River County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Helene Caseltine said the Chamber is expanding the program to upload information to the GIS website for any of its 700 member businesses that are interested, free of charge.
At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce reached out to local manufacturers asking for help in providing PPE to local healthcare workers.
“Piper Aircraft, our largest private employer, is making and donating plastic face masks and, now, cotton masks for Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital,” Caseltine said.
Other much smaller manufacturers also offered to help: Novurania, which makes high-end yacht tenders, is making cotton face masks; iOneMoto, which makes protective gear for the motocross industry, is making surgical gowns; and Triton Submarines, which makes personal submersibles and is proficient with breathing apparatus, partnered with a customer to make ventilators. “Everyone stepped up immediately, and we didn’t have to ask twice!” Caseltine said.
GATEWAYS FOR PPE IMPORTS
As the nation works to provide necessary equipment and supplies in the fight against COVID-19, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) is helping importers to get these critical goods into the hands of frontline health workers.
The Port of Savannah is collaborating with companies such as Drive Medical, a major supplier of beds, IV poles and other goods needed at COVID-19 pop-up hospitals around the country. GPA is providing real-time information with direct visibility on vessel status, estimated time of arrival and container availability, as well as expedited container processing for cargo destined for COVID-19 hotspots such as New York, Detroit and New Orleans.
With help from shipping lines and cargo owners, GPA can also identify containers, locate them on the vessel via U.S. Customs manifests and speed vessel discharge for specific containers. GPA staff aids the movement of containers by coordinating with ocean carriers, container operations and rail teams, the trucking community and, if necessary, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The Port of Savannah is a hub for medical supply importers, which includes customers who use third-party logistics providers to oversee and expedite cargo movement. These time-sensitive medical supplies are moving through Garden City Terminal to help hospitals across the nation fight the spread of COVID-19.
Down the James River from the Richmond Marine Terminal, the Port of Virginia in Norfolk announced recently it has established a new “critical cargo initiative” for coronavirus-related shipments. The Port said coronavirus cargo would receive priority treatment and would be processed to leave the terminal as quickly as possible.
“This cargo is vital and getting it to the people that need it the most as quickly and efficiently as possible is a priority for The Port of Virginia team,” said John Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority.
Port personnel will be pre-positioning COVID-19 critical import containers for easier pick-up and would be working closely with motor carriers to confirm truck reservations to move those shipments. The Richmond Marine Terminal’s business increased more than 28 percent in March. Volume at the Terminal has been steady with a total of four barges running shipments between Richmond and the East Coast’s most technologically-advanced port in Norfolk.
Richmond area headquartered Performance Food Group, a Fortune 500 company that services 200,000 restaurants with its supplies, continues to support its customer base by launching tools to assist the independent channel, advertise which restaurants are open and help with a transition to higher volume in take-out and delivery.
“In addition to working with our existing customers, we have formed several new partnerships, brought in new business and shared many of our associates with organizations that are experiencing labor shortages,” said George Holm, PFG Chairman, President & CEO.
Utilizing its nationwide network of over 100 distribution centers, the company signed agreements with 10 new grocery retail partners sharing over 1,000 associates to help keep shelves stocked with food. This includes distributing groceries to approximately 480 new grocery locations as PFG builds out its distribution capabilities to this channel. PFG also entered into new partnerships to support online ordering for its customers through OpenMenu, Swipeby and several other third-party delivery operators.
The Virginia Supply Chain Initiative (VSCI), a centralized supply chain clearinghouse for businesses and local governments responding to the COVID-19 crisis, is providing a one-stop resource for organizations needing to supplement or enhance supply chains.
SCI creates a network of supply chain providers from warehousing, distribution, contract packaging, kitting and assembly, customized fulfillment, same-day delivery, inventory, order management, print management and material management. The list of supply chain partners in Virginia’s initiative includes Orbit Logistics, Productiv, MobileOne Courier & Logistics, Riverside Logistics, Custom Healthcare Systems Inc., Richmond Corrugated Box Co., Fulfilltopia, JLL and Warehowz.
A centralized supply chain resource for business and local government responding to the COVID-19 crisis, VSCI already is supporting an effort to deliver food to school children in Louisiana to maintain the continuity of student meal services while the schools are closed due to COVID-19. Productiv is working with local leaders in Louisiana to assess the need, while Richmond Corrugated Box Co. supplies the meal boxes and Riverside Logistics transports the pallets of meals to drop points in Louisiana.
Some supply chain experts emphasize flexibility in warehousing during the pandemic. “Inserting a flexible solution to storage space and transportation into the supply chain can help alleviate some of the pain points related to all this uncertainty,” says Darrell Jervey, CEO of Richmond-based startup Warehowz.
“Thankfully, our partnership with Warehowz gives our customers a solution in this unprecedented time of need,” says Pat Martin, Corporate Vice President of Sales for Estes Express Lines. The company, headquartered in Richmond, is the largest privately-owned trucking company in the U.S.
“Our customers have already begun looking for short-term warehousing and this will only accelerate in the coming months as the flow of goods into the U.S. rises quickly,” Martin added.
TRAINING AND RECRUITING GOING REMOTE
From the outset of the COVID crisis, Louisiana Economic Development’s FastStart program began working with statewide agency and business partners, regional workforce and economic development allies, and Louisiana economists to understand shifts in employment expected during the recovery phase and the required regional workforce development response, including transitioning workers affected by job losses.
LED FastStart staff are serving on the Education and Workforce Task Force of the Governor’s Resilient LA Commission (co-chaired by LED Secretary Don Pierson) as well as providing key guidance and staff resources to ensure the success of the task force.
LED FastStart has provided interactive training modules (ITMs) from the C4M curriculum and other FastStart assets to LCTCS campuses to aid in transitioning their manufacturing programs to remote learning, and working with them to plan hands-on learning strategies that protect public health.
As COVID-19 cases spread in Louisiana and it became apparent that high schools needed to suspend on-site classes for the school year, LED FastStart coordinated with the Louisiana Department of Education and partner high schools to transition to online delivery of C4M curriculum.
LED FastStart also has been able to rapidly transition project-specific training to remote delivery formats such as webinars and virtual classes. Curriculum development, material review and revision, and production of training materials were shifted to remote execution within a few days of the statewide stay-at-home order in Louisiana.
FastStart eLearning quickly converted many traditional instructor-led training courses to webinar format, especially in topics such as Talent Management and Quality Programs which do not always require a hands-on component. The FastStart eLearning team is developing enhanced processes for virtual walkthroughs with subject matter experts, employing robust virtual review sessions of training content. The media division of LED FastStart has produced 26 Public Service announcements during the crisis for radio, TV and social media, including messages from Gov. John Bel Edwards and Ed Orgeron, the LSU football coach.
When the pandemic hit, many LED FastStart companies suspended their hiring plans. However, several companies have continued their hiring or have even expanded plans, but were unable to hold hiring events. For Advanced Aero Services (A2S), an MRO facility located in Shreveport, FastStart quickly developed a virtual job fair on Facebook, a campaign that reached 170,000 individuals.
In Virginia, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) is connecting jobseekers with hiring companies in Northern Virginia by presenting virtual career fairs. The first virtual career fair will take place on May 28 for enrolled college students and recent college graduates. At least 11 employers will participate in the New-Grad Virtual Career Fair, including Northrop Grumman, NTT Data Federal, Boost LLC, Strategy and Management Services (SAMS) and Sparksoft. Participants will be able to remotely browse companies in a virtual lobby, “enter” companies’ booths, view open positions specifically curated for recent grads and chat with HR representatives in real-time.
With more than 30 top-ranked colleges and universities within a four-hour drive of Northern Virginia—and more than 50,000 current job opportunities in the region—the FCEDA’s virtual career fairs are serving as a bridge between open positions and job-seekers.
“As a result of COVID-19, this is not the same job market that this year’s graduates envisioned entering even a few months ago, and that is why we’re working with corporate and academic partners on these virtual career fairs to get grads and students in contact with companies in our region that are hiring,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the FCEDA.
The FCEDA has more fairs on the horizon, each one for a different pool of candidates. The next virtual career fair, slated to take place in June, will be targeted at seasoned, mid-level tech professionals in industries including IT, cybersecurity, defense/aerospace, software engineering and data analytics.
TRADE SHOWS, CONFABS GO VIRTUAL
Organizations that host annual trade shows and conferences attended by the economic development community had to make quick decisions when the pandemic struck regarding events scheduled to take place in the spring of 2020.
[BF postponed its annual deal-making event, LiveXchange, originally scheduled for April. LiveX will take place Sept. 27-29 at the Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, NC.]
The annual BIO International Convention originally was scheduled to take place June 8-11 in San Diego. The BIO org announced last month that it is transitioning this year’s convention into a new virtual event, BIO Digital 2020.
“Given the impact of COVID and global health recommendations regarding large, in-person gatherings, we have made the decision to transition the traditional in-person BIO International Convention to a new, virtual event, BIO Digital 2020,” the BIO org stated, in a video release announcing the new event. “Now, more than ever, we must organize, connect and collaborate to advance research to combat this public health threat. Nothing stops innovation.”
BIO Digital 2020 will focus on collaboration and partnerships. BIO One-on-One Partnering™ launched in late April with new features that allow attendees to schedule virtual meetings using their preferred method, including a teleconference system, video meeting service or other medium.
BIO Digital also is offering expert-level educational content featuring panel discussions and “fireside chats” across four days, complete with both live and on-demand sessions. Programing will focus on the most pressing industry topics, including COVID-19, digital health, business development, oncology, gene editing and the latest therapeutic advancements in biotech.
As BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood noted in the video release, “BIO is committed to bringing the forces of this great industry together as we always have. At this critical juncture in our history, we stand ready to combat this pandemic and continue to improve and save lives, because nothing stops innovation.”
A biotech and pharma powerhouse long known as “the Medicine Chest of the World,” New Jersey is playing a leading role on COVID-19 research.
On June 4-5, BIONJ is hosting an online COVID-19 Rapid Fire Research Showcase, bringing together 10 companies to share details on their groundbreaking COVID-19 research, including work on vaccines, cell and gene therapy, treatments and therapeutics that currently is underway in the Garden State. Phyllis Arthur, VP of Infectious Diseases & Diagnostics Policy at BIONJ, will open the program with an overview of the biotech industry’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including more than 400 research programs globally.
Registrants for the 2020 Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference may now dive head-first into an online platform, Pathable, which uses highly interactive SaaS software. The platform provides multiple ways to engage with panelists, keynote speakers, exhibitors and all attendees through the day-long June 4 conference, which will remain open for online one-on-one meetings on June 5.
Crossing the Coronavirus Chasm is the theme of the Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference, where entrepreneurs from around the state will showcase their innovations, services and technologies geared to “surviving and thriving in a post-COVID world.”
TECH HUBS, INDUSTRY LEADERS UP PRODUCTION OF TEST KITS
Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT), a comprehensive genomics solutions provider, this month has opened its new manufacturing facility in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The facility is prioritizing the production of primers and probes that are critical components of COVID-19 tests.
IDT is producing primer and probe kits sufficient to enable more than 31 million tests to be conducted in the U.S. pursuant to the CDC EUA testing protocol. The new NC facility further expands IDT’s capacity to serve customers and meet demand, including from research facilities in the eastern U.S.
“The launch of our North Carolina facility allows IDT to offer the best speed of service for the East Coast and other markets, while maintaining our industry-leading product quality and 100-percent quality control,” said IDT President Trey Martin. “The added demand for coronavirus-specific products means this is an opportune time for us to add new capacity, which has been configured specifically for this important purpose. The new facility will therefore immediately increase IDT’s capability to manufacture products that enable more COVID-19 testing.”
The NC facility has been equipped with IDT’s proprietary machinery and manufacturing processes. An industry leader in DNA writing, IDT will offer custom oligonucleotides at the North Carolina facility with longer available sequence lengths and more available modifications than any other manufacturer in the region.
These product options—and a turnaround time that can get orders into customers’ hands as quickly as the next day—allows researchers to start projects sooner while taking advantage of IDT’s signature product quality. In addition to serving customers in Research Triangle Park, the NC facility will support next-day service to a number of cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Houston, New York City and Philadelphia. Researchers in these cities will be able to order custom oligos up until 8:00 p.m. EST and receive them the following day with no additional fees.
The facility is the latest addition in IDT’s continued global expansion, joining production facilities in Coralville, IA; San Diego, CA; Leuven, Belgium; and Singapore. IDT services researchers in more than 100 countries from these locations.
America’s industry leaders also are joining forces to fill the nation’s urgent need for PPE supplies, forming new emergency supply chains linking plastics, textiles and fabrication facilities.
Connecticut-based Gerber Technology, a producer of leading-edge software systems that maximize productivity while reducing waste, has created the Gerber PPE Task Force. Through the PPE Task Force, Gerber’s team of experts is helping manufacturers of all industries retool and optimize their production lines for protective gear by providing the technology, support and resources they need for fast, efficient and sustainable PPE production. Gerber has set up a robust resource library which includes production-ready patterns, cut files, markers and tech packs. Gerber also has created a PPE Manufacturer Matchmaking Program to promote collaboration among manufacturers and suppliers.
Gerber is collaborating with Wilmington, DE-based chemical giant DuPont and Material Concepts, a major Tyvek distributor in Philadelphia, to support firms who are interested in manufacturing gowns made with DuPont’s Tyvek® 1222A as part of DuPont’s #TyvekTogether program. “We are very proud to join forces with DuPont and Material Concepts to keep our frontline heroes healthy and safe as they work tirelessly to fight COVID-19,” said Karsten Newbury, chief strategy and digital officer of Gerber Technology and lead for Gerber’s PPE Task Force.
“DuPont is committed to increasing the availability of gowns and coveralls made with Tyvek® to support the frontline workers in the response to COVID-19,” said David Domnisch, global business leader, DuPont Personal Protection.
The Gerber PPE Task force has brought together a bevy of specialists, including several companies that normally compete with each other.
Companies working with the Gerber PPE Task Force include DAP America, based in Norcross, GA, which is offering its know-how in sewing and welding to facilitate mask production; A&E (American & Efird, based in Mount Holly, NC), one of the world’s foremost manufacturers of sewing thread, embroidery thread and technical textiles; Henderson Sewing, a global supplier in Andalusia, AL of industrial sewing machines, sewing machine parts and custom automated sewing machines; Rome Fastener Corp., a Milford, CT-based producer of snap fasteners that now is producing components for PPE, including aluminum nose stays, rivets to hold shields together and snap fasteners for gowns; Coats, an Uxbridge, UK producer of high-tenacity industrial sewing threads ideal for face masks; and 3DLOOK, a San Mateo, CA, firm which is providing small Made to Measure companies (whose business has relied on the traditional way of measuring customers in person) with a program that digitizes measurement capture and automates their workflows.
MAKING SURE AID GETS TO ALL IN NEED
State economic development organizations are using the federal relief fund established under the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to create programs that funnel this aid to every business that needs it, including businesses that currently are operating out of people’s homes.
This month, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced a $50-million expansion of its Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program, which provides funding to small businesses facing financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The expanded program will provide grants up to $10,000 to qualified businesses; it relaxes eligibility criteria to include a broader variety of businesses as well as home-based businesses and sole proprietorships. To ensure equity, $15 million of the program will be reserved for businesses in Opportunity Zone-eligible census tracts.
“COVID-19 has created an unprecedented crisis for New Jersey’s small businesses. From the start, the NJEDA has worked tirelessly to support business owners and their employees, but it quickly became clear that the scope of the challenges this virus presents went far beyond what we could address with our resources alone,” said NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan. “This much-needed federal assistance will allow us to support thousands of additional businesses that were not eligible for the first round of grants with a particular focus on firms in the most at-risk communities.”
The South Jersey Chamber of Commerce, with participation from the Greater Atlantic City and Cape May County chambers, sponsored a May 13 webinar which brought five South Jersey leaders together to speak about the response the business community and the state have marshaled to help small to mid-size businesses and nonprofits during the economic crisis.
The presentation began with a presentation from Sullivan, who was named co-chair of Gov. Phil Murphy’s Restart and Recovery Council. Sullivan provided details on the programs NJEDA has available to help businesses in South Jersey, including operating grants and loans for small businesses, partnerships with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), entrepreneurial support programs, technical assistance support and programs to increase credit flexibility loans.
Sullivan told attendees that the variety of available business relief programs and their varied qualification requirements can be overwhelming; the NJEDA chief recommended that business owners use an online “eligibility wizard” (available at www.cv.business.nj.gov). The wizard walks a user through a series of questions that help narrow assistance programs for which the business owner may be eligible.
Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo, of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said NJ is now hiring and training 1,000 contact tracers, who will follow up on expanded COVID-19 testing in the Garden State by tracking down people who may have been exposed to a person who tests positive for the coronavirus.
In neighboring NY, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, working with philanthropist and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, aims to create an army of more than 17,000 contact tracers so the state, which experienced the worst outbreak of COVID-19, can safely reopen.
Hamilton County, IN has created a Workforce Recovery Task Force. The Task Force is an effort to jumpstart a recovery plan for Hamilton County businesses, spearheaded by the Hamilton County Economic Development Corporation (HCEDC).
HIGHER-ED RESOURCES JOIN FORCES TO PROTECT FRONT-LINE WORKERS
Educators from the State University of New York College at Oswego (SUNY Oswego) are putting their skills together to support a critical need during the COVID-19 pandemic—producing protective face shields for healthcare workers and first responders in Oswego County, NY.
SUNY Oswego faculty members Daniel Tryon of technology education and David Dunn of biological sciences partnered with Tracy Fleming of the Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation (CiTi BOCES) to start production in late March. They all had similar ideas to help, so they joined forces.
The team developed 60 face shields with an original prototype. Then the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Veterans Healthcare Administration and America Makes, posted suggestions for 3D printers that encouraged builders to include a “roof” on the top of shields, Tryon noted.
“I decided to turn over the 60 that we had to Tracy so he could take them to the local group that approved them, but to completely switch production here to the new design,” Tryon said. “This latest version is fantastic. This is a model that has actually been clinically tested by NIH.”
The team produced 185 shields as of April 1, but continue to refine and ramp up production. “3D printers are the slowest process, but we have more than doubled production rates so far and should be able to produce about 93 per day going forward,” Tryon said.
On the SUNY Oswego campus, Tryon is using 3D printers in Park Hall’s technology lab to print the frames, and is cutting lenses out of polycarbonate. Dunn then takes the parts to finish and sterilize them in ovens in a Shineman Center lab.
“I’m participating in the design and testing process to produce shields that will provide maximum protection while being easy to use,” Dunn said. “I’m also disinfecting and packaging shields prior to their being sent out for use.”
Fleming, a SUNY Oswego graduate and data coordinator for CiTi BOCES, was instrumental in starting the project and partnering with the Oswego County Health Department. He also has been working tirelessly on fabricating shields as well.
CiTi BOCES has allowed the use of its 3-D printer and laser cutter to assist with the production of the face shields; the organization now has cross-collaboration with neighboring counties. “We are partnering with another facility that is actually all the way out in Auburn,” Fleming said. “The facility is the ‘maker space’ belonging to Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES.” Fleming said he is planning to use a CNC router to cut shields in stacks for a more efficient process.
The shields being made at SUNY Oswego are being shared with the Oswego County Emergency Management office for dissemination to healthcare and first responder agencies, as well as to on-campus Health Services, University Police and the college’s agricultural and testing analysis laboratory at the Port of Oswego Authority.
“We’ve been working with the health department and some other healthcare providers, and they seem to really like it,” Tryon said.
Local industry partners Exelon and Novelis have stepped up to help with production. Exelon is providing 18 face shields per day, and growing, Tryon said, while Novelis has helped with providing filament.
Since SUNY Oswego had already produced protective face shields with CiTi BOCES, Exelon and Novelis, Katie Pagliaroli, RN, director of Quality and Patient Safety for Oswego Health, turned to Tryon once again to see if SUNY Oswego could possibly assist with the ventilator shortage. Tryon was up for the challenge, so Pagliaroli introduced him to Oswego Health’s director of Respiratory Therapy, Kristina Marks, RRT, BS.
After a few phone calls and an exchange of pictures of ventilator adaptors, Tryon developed a prototype within 24 hours for Oswego Hospital. Marks then ran the prototype through a test lung simulation, which the unit quickly passed and proved operational. Tryon then produced 30 “tee” (T) connectors and delivered them to the hospital. Each ventilator requires two connectors, so potentially 30 patients can be vented simultaneously.
“These adaptors will assist us to further our preparedness to take care of even more critically ill patients, should we need to,” Marks explained. “We are so grateful for our partnership with SUNY Oswego and their continued innovation and commitment to this community.”
“Healthcare resources are stretched extremely thin in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dunn said. “Personal protective equipment, including face shields, are among the equipment facing critical shortages. While we hope and expect that nationwide production of medical equipment will soon ramp up, we felt that in the interim, we could help to fill the gap.”
TOP GUNS IN ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN TEAM UP WITH TEENAGER TO MAKE 3D-PRINTED FACE SHIELDS
Studio Hiller, an award-winning architectural and design firm based in Princeton, NJ, took note of a news report about a local teenager using his personal 3D printer to produce PPE. Jerilyn Angotti, a controller at Studio Hillier, reached out to designer Dustin Bailey to see if the design firm could use its capabilities to help.
The next day, architectural designer Tsvetelina Churalska worked with Bailey to assemble a team and network to begin printing face shields. They found additional support on a Facebook group called SOMA NJ 3D Printers Alliance, a network of people devoted to the printing and delivering of face shields to New Jersey hospitals.
Only four days after seeing that initial report, Studio Hillier made its first mask deliveries to St. Mary’s Hospital in Newtown, PA and the Princeton Medical Center.
To date, the team has donated 190 high-quality face shields to five hospitals and two nonprofits in the area. They also have established a Princeton PPE Collective, teaming with the Princeton University School of Architecture and STEAM Works Studio, to add partners and volunteers for future efforts.
“First and foremost, we need to identify how COVID-19 has impacted the county workforce and create a timeline for recovery,” says County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt. “That starts by tapping the best business minds and industry experts in our county to create measurable goals and objectives.”
In addition to Heirbrandt, members of the task force include Bob DuBois, president and CEO of the Noblesville Chamber of Commerce; Jack Russell, Interim president of OneZone Commerce; Nick Verhoff, president of the Westfield Chamber of Commerce; County Councilor Amy Massillamany; Dan Clark, president of Ivy Tech Noblesville; Chuck Haberman, workforce consultant; Rob Kneberg, executive director of Hamilton County Workforce Innovation Network; Ed Miller, Work One; and Angela Acrey, VP of Human Resources at Helmer Scientific.
The task force will look at creating both a short-term (three month) and long-term (six-to-nine months) plan for reducing unemployment. It also will work to identify industries and companies that have additional workforce needs tied to COVID-19. Hamilton County plans to replace the task force with the county’s 21st Century Talent Region effort by October 2020.
“The task force may also apply for grant dollars,” said Carol Sergi, executive director of the HCEDC. “Those dollars could be used to cover the costs of training programs, potential job fairs and supplies to help businesses reopen.”
The pandemic has sidelined 22 local sporting events in the Orlando, FL area that were expected to generate more than $50 million in economic impact between March 1 and June 30, according to the Greater Orlando Sports Commission.
The Sports Commission’s plan to get the region’s sports industry back into the game includes a new Best Practices Taskforce and Response team, formed by the commission and recreational venue group Orlando Venues to develop guidelines for the reopening of arenas, ballparks and stadiums in Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties in FL.
The Sports Commission also has prepared to hit the ground running by submitting 144 bids for future events projected to produce $1.2 billion in combined economic impact in Greater Orlando. Those events would be in addition to 12 new commitments the region has landed with another $73 million in economic impact.
JAXUSA, Jacksonville’s regional economic development partnership, brought together various Jacksonville, FL companies to facilitate an additional COVID-19 testing site to increase the daily testing capacity in the region. JAXUSA connected Telescope Health, a Jacksonville health care provider with testing capabilities, with the Jacksonville branch of global staffing agency Adecco, to organize the call centers necessary for the testing site to field questions from residents and provide test results by phone. JAXUSA also enlisted Jacksonville-based Formativ Health to manage and secure the site’s information and data.
Most COVID-19 testing sites across the country are privately-run by hospitals because many cities don’t have the resources to set up their own sites without state or federal funding (including funds that may become exhausted or be withdrawn). Through this public-private partnership, Duval County residents have access to additional testing in an operation that the city can monitor and maintain.
GETTING READY FOR REOPENING
On May 22, Gov. Cuomo announced the New York Forward Loan Fund aimed at supporting New York state small businesses, nonprofits and small landlords as they reopen after the Empire State begins to lift Cuomo’s “NYS on PAUSE” order.
This $100-million program targets the state’s small businesses with 20 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, as well as nonprofits and small landlords that have seen a loss of rental income during the pandemic. It is designed to assist businesses that did not receive a loan from either the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or SBA economic injury disaster loans (EIDL) for COVID-19 in 2020. The working capital loans are timed to support businesses and organizations as they proceed to reopen and have upfront expenses to comply with guidelines (e.g., inventory, marketing, refitting for new social distancing guidelines) under the New York Forward plan. Eight percent of the $100 million program will be allocated to businesses within the Western New York region.
Gov. Cuomo said that priority for funding will be given to industries and regions that have been reopened (this is not a first-come, first-served loan program). Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis as regions and industries reopen.
In Canada, the government of Manitoba is providing $10 million in grants for 344 community development projects to restart the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The province is increasing investment by 25 percent in its Building Sustainable Communities program (developed to improve quality of life by responding to neighborhood, municipal and regional priorities), Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister stated in a press release.
“We are committed to supporting projects that will help build thriving, sustainable communities and a better future for Manitobans. These grants will help give community organizations a much-needed boost during this unprecedented time, and this investment is another way our government is helping rebuild Manitoba’s economy,” Pallister said.
“We are boosting our support for community projects as we work together to rebuild the Manitoba economy. We know these have been challenging times for many Manitobans, but by working together, we will get through this,” added Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires.
The $10-million investment supplements $28 million allocated to a wide variety of community projects, ranging from playground upgrades, community building repairs and accessibility upgrades, to sports equipment and outdoor amenities like nature trails.
The Building Sustainable Communities program provides grants to charitable and non-profit organizations, municipalities and Northern Affairs community councils and provides a maximum provincial contribution of up to 50 percent of total eligible project costs to a maximum grant of $75,000.
“The Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) commends the Province of Manitoba for providing these timely investments to help build stronger communities. During a time of economic uncertainty and tremendous financial pressures due to COVID-19, the Building Sustainable Communities Program is vital to help promote greater economic development and thriving local communities across Manitoba,” AMM president Ralph Groening said.
In order to receive funding, organizations must comply with social distancing requirements; organizations that cannot comply are invited to resubmit alternative project proposals supporting community development activities.
The Manitoba government also announced a new tax increment financing incentive to push economic growth in the province. The Manitoba Works Capital Incentive will lever incremental education property tax rebates to stimulate economic growth and job creation, said Economic Development and Training Minister Ralph Eichler.
“This new program in Manitoba’s investment support tool kit will bring business investment and jobs to the province and help achieve the objectives set out in the provincial Economic Growth Action Plan. The Manitoba Works Capital Incentive demonstrates that our province continues to be open for business during these challenging economic times,” Eichler said.
The first project announced under the program is the potential investment of $392 million in private capital into the redevelopment of Portage Place Mall in Winnipeg through a $28.7 million rebate over 20 years. The development will convert Portage Place into a mixed-use project including student housing, larger-family Indigenous student housing, retail and services.
A new or existing business can apply for the program if they are prepared to make a minimum capital investment of $10 million to a specific property, which will be designated for tax increment financing benefits; ensure a minimum of 64 percent of total project costs are from private sources; and show there is demonstrable potential to create or maintain jobs within Manitoba, or that the new business will have a measurable economic benefit to the province.
The government has committed to phase out the education property tax in order to relieve property owners of this burden and to align Manitoba with other provinces. Rebates provided through the Manitoba Works Capital Incentive will support significant development during the phase-out period and will provide a competitive tax advantage, Eichler added.
“The Manitoba Works Capital Incentive carries no risk in that it provides no up-front money to the developer, and the province pays only what is collected in incremental education property tax as a result of the development,” a provincial government release stated.
As the pandemic unfolded, the City of Tucson (AZ) Office of Economic Initiatives focused on helping small business navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The office immediately began staffing up its small business hotline in order to field calls coming from the business community trying to understand and interpret each new state or local executive order that was issued in the early days of this crisis. In the first four weeks, the unit fielded over a hundred calls, providing referrals to local business resource partners who could offer business counseling and financial assistance.
The Office of Economic Initiatives also set up weekly webinars on Monday afternoons to share resources with small businesses and connect them to the latest information and updates from its partner organizations. The recorded webinars, which have been downloaded more than 500 times, are posted on Tucson’s www.connectTucson.com.
A $500,000 Tucson Resiliency Loan Program was launched in order to provide additional financial assistance to local small businesses that have been hit the hardest. More than 380 businesses responded to a March 30 survey on the impact of COVID-19. Results included:
- One-third of responding businesses reported being closed, with 48 percent of those a result of shutdown orders
- More than 80 percent were paying their employees even if unable to work
- 62 percent did not have standing lines of credit; 22 percent said they could make it four weeks before they would cease to be in business; 14 percent said they could make it 12 weeks before closure
- 24 percent said they will make permanent reductions to their workforce in the next three months.
CALL CENTER FOR COVID-19 INFO
Once business leaders in Birmingham, AL realized COVID-19 would have a swift and fierce impact on their city, a group quickly organized and executed a strategy to lift their community. This effort resulted in #BhamStrong, an initiative aiming to offer agile, fast-response solutions to the problems that are resulting from the pandemic. The Birmingham Strong Fund, a $2.4-million emergency loan fund, was one of the first tangible deliverables from the effort—including $1 million from the Birmingham City Council; a total of 246 companies applied for the loan, with 68 percent of those applicants classified as women- or minority-owned businesses. The city of Birmingham launched the fund in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, which will house the fund, and the Birmingham Business Resource Center, which will administer what will become a revolving loan fund.
Staffing firm Vaco worked with #BhamStrong and the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District to quickly pull together a 50-person remote call center staffed by recently displaced hospitality workers. The center will survey thousands of public housing residents to understand their awareness of COVID-19, understand potential symptoms and connect them with the free resources available.
Launched in just a few days, Local Distancing was founded by a trio of Birmingham residents, all childhood friends and Auburn graduates: Trey Oliver, attorney; Vince Perez, a senior project manager; and Dylan Spencer, web developer and founder of the marketing agency Dylan Spencer & Co. The site, which created a platform for consumers to buy gift cards to a host of local establishments, featured 100 businesses (mostly in the restaurant and service industry) just after two days of going live.
Suzanna Fritzberg, who previously worked as policy director and deputy chief of staff to Mayor Pete Buttigieg in South Bend, IN has been hired as the founding executive director of #BhamStrong.
Rhode Island Commerce organized a free tech support service for small business owners via one-on-one video teleconference or over the phone, staffed by volunteers from some of Rhode Island’s leading tech companies. Companies volunteering include Infosys, Brave River Solutions, Vertikal6 and Venture Cafe Providence. These experts are available to help small business owners set up equipment to work from home, shift to online meetings and help with document management and security. In its first week, the tech support service has served 100 companies.
Rhode Island also made strategic partnerships with communication and tech companies to help businesses transition to working remotely. Microsoft is providing its Office 365 E1 program free for six months to all Rhode Island employers, including web-based Microsoft Office applications, resources to support telecommuting such as meetings and instant messaging, and remote file sharing [BF uses Microsoft’s SharePoint program to manage the digital workflow of the magazine.].
Exclusively for Rhode Island’s frontline workers, Care.com is offering childcare at either a no cost or a reduced rate.
Livingston County (NY) Economic Development has created a loan recovery fund for small businesses seeking to reopen following pandemic closures. To qualify, the business must reopen within 30 days of when governmental restrictions are lifted. Loans will be between $2,000 and $10,000, with repayment scheduled to start in month seven of reopening. The loans will have a 48-month term and a one percent interest rate.
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) recently awarded three organizations $10,000 each through the Grow a Farmer Assistance Fund. These organizations will use the funding to support local food growers in SMIF’s 20-county region whose businesses have been impacted by the current health and economic crisis.
The pandemic has resulted in restrictions of face-to-face sales and a disruption in distribution channels, challenging many local food producers to find other means of selling their products. This program will give farmers an opportunity to create new strategies to get their products into the marketplace.
The award recipients are the Cannon River Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota, Driftless Grown and Renewing the Countryside. They’ll work collaboratively to support at least 120 farmers in southern Minnesota by providing one-on-one coaching and business training. This may include the development and execution of online marketing, branding, website development or support with business operations exploring new distribution systems. Farmers interested in receiving assistance should contact these organizations directly.
“Local food producers are critical to the economic fabric of our region,” said Pam Bishop, VP of Economic Development at SMIF. “We are proud to support these organizations, which are well-situated to help farmers expand their business opportunities during this challenging time.”
SMIF has been a partner in local foods efforts for many years, primarily as a member of the FEAST! Local Foods Network, which is committed to growing a sustainable, local and regional food system by providing resources and assistance to food and farming entrepreneurs. SMIF also supports small-scale farmers through the Grow a Farmer Fund, offering low-interest loans of up to $15,000 to help improve operations and increase their bottom lines.
BLUEPRINT TO REBUILD OPPORTUNITY
Policy experts from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin have issued a nine-point blueprint for rebuilding “a more equitable and inclusive future Texas” after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report, “A Playbook for Resiliency: Creating Opportunity for All Texans,” co-authored by Kirk Watson, founding dean of the Hobby School of Public Affairs, and Steven Pedigo, professor of practice and director of the LBJ School’s Urban Lab, calls for state and local leaders to evaluate past policies and unequal growth.
“We have to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that, going forward, our state is more resilient than it’s ever been,” said Watson, a former state senator who serves on Gov. Greg Abbott’s Strike Force to Open Texas. “How we approach the challenge of recovery from the pandemic will define Texas going forward and whether it is stronger and better prepared for the future.”
According to a report in The Gilmer Mirror, the report says the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to reshape the state’s approach to critical services, ranging from health care and education to economic development for both urban and rural communities.
“Even in a downturn, Texas cannot afford to turn away from investment at this crucial time,” said Pedigo, an economic development strategist who has advised communities across the world. “As important and urgent as it is to reopen Texas, our ultimate challenge is to make our state stronger and more prosperous in the future. That starts with investing in polices and plans that put Texans first.”
Hawaii’s Kaua’i County Council heard more than 45 economic-recovery recommendations from Mayor Derek Kawakami’s Kaua’i Economic Recovery Strategy Teams, including how to support local businesses, the importance of communications, the need for broadband and improved infrastructure and the long-term need to diversify the economy. The list was put together by industry-centered teams that have convened to address community needs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Airdrie Economic Development has announced the launch of the Right for Business Support Program in the Canadian city of Airdrie. The program is designed to connect Airdrie businesses with service experts and advisors for support during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We conducted a survey in March that led us to build this program,” Airdrie Economic Development Officer Tara Levick said. “The program’s intent is to provide access to Airdrie businesses to critical advisors and those business service professionals to help them remain resilient during this pandemic.”
The pilot program will be delivered in three streams specific to each business’ most urgent needs and will run from May 21 to August 21. Levick says business support is a priority both during the pandemic and into the recovery phase. The program is designed to provide businesses with help close to home and will engage experts to assist and foster better community connections. Stream A focuses on mentorship and coaching opportunities; businesses in this stream will have access to local learning opportunities and “Ask an Airdrie Expert” webinars.
Airdrie Economic Development has teamed up with Bow Valley College and Community Futures Centre West to provide Stream A. They’ve also partnered with MNP LPP in Airdrie to deliver stream B; businesses in this stream will work with MNP to build an action plan that will help them more successfully adapt to the new business environment.
Stream C targets businesses needing one-on-one support from business professionals. Each business will work with a rapid response team to assess and prioritize their needs and develop a Business Resiliency Plan.
Levick says all a business needs to do to qualify for the program is to hold a valid City of Airdrie business license and be located within the city limits. “It’s a free program and the application form will take you literally five minutes to fill out and we’ll place you in the stream that best suits your business,” she said.
The city took multiple steps to assist businesses during the crisis, including a six month deferral granted on Enterprise Development Loans and Brownfield Revolving Fund Loans issued by the city. Over 20 borrowers were notified of the program, which runs through Sept. 30.
NEW DATA TRACKS COVID-19 ECONOMIC IMPACT
In an effort to better understand the impacts of the COVID-19 health emergency and analyze economic changes around the state, the New Mexico Economic Development Department is now publishing quarterly data reports for all 33 New Mexico counties.
The reports on each of the state’s counties offer a unique perspective on sectors that are rising and falling. The Quarterly Economic Summary reports show “Matched Taxable Gross Receipts” tracked over time, displayed as over-the-year trends and by industry sector. The report also includes employment and average weekly wage trends, unemployment insurance claims and annual changes in gross domestic product.
Taxable gross receipts (GRT) are the lifeblood of most communities: gross receipts taxes pay for public services as well as essential equipment for first responders, and tracking GRT offers a different view of a local economy than workforce or job growth.
NM’s quarterly reports are another tool for state lawmakers and local communities to use when making decisions about workforce training, job creation and economic investment. The data will be especially useful as the state moves into recovery planning from the COVID-19 emergency. The project was supervised by Jon Clark, EDD Deputy Cabinet Secretary, who previously served as an economist with the Legislature. Clark noted there has been a paucity of data for non-metro areas of New Mexico; he hopes the all-in-one quarterly reports from the Economic Development Department can help fill that gap.
“We know good decisions start with good data and we want the Economic Development Department to be a resource for all communities around the state,” Clark said. “The goal of these reports will be to provide economic and revenue information on a quarterly basis to allow each county to see the full impact of the COVID-19 crisis and the effects of the economic recovery.”
The quarterly reports will be published in February, May, August, and November with the most recent information available from the Taxation and Revenue Department, Department of Workforce Solutions, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS PITCH IN
While many relief funds created to deal with the COVID-19 crisis are being administered at the state or county level, local governments across the country also are pitching in with programs to assist small businesses. An example is the action taken this month by the Osceola County, FL community of St. Cloud. The St. Cloud City Council approved a suite of new programs designed to provide economic support to any of the more than 1,300 local businesses facing financial hardship due to the pandemic.
The city’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery and Stimulus Plan includes a three-phased approach to assist businesses, including post-recovery efforts. The package includes grant programs for small businesses and nonprofits, fee waivers for city services and a variety of resources providing technical support and marketplace information. In all, the plan offers $1.25 million of local support, with the opportunity to grow to more than $2 million if additional philanthropic, state and federal resources are included.
The St. Cloud plan complements recently announced state and federal economic recovery initiatives. “We believe this is an opportunity to do more than just talk about our support of our local business community and actually give support by providing this desperately needed assistance,” said St. Cloud Mayor Nathan Blackwell.
“This certainly won’t solve all issues, but these small businesses are integral to our local economy and it’s important they be given a helping hand in these unprecedented times,” he added.
Phase I of the plan involves the execution of two grant programs: the COVID-19 Nonprofit Grant Assistance Program and the COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program. The City Council approved the use of $250,000 from the St. Cloud/OUC Economic Development and Business Retention Fund. Phase II of the stimulus plan will include targeted fee waivers and extensions on core municipal services. Phase III, also funded with $250,000 from the St. Cloud/OUC Business Retention Fund, is devoted to post-recovery economic efforts and additional assistance for local business.
“Using money from the OUC fund to help with Economic Development Recovery is exactly what the OUC Business Retention Fund was designed to do,” said City Manager Bill Sturgeon.
The City’s focus is on getting quick relief to local businesses that have been hit hardest by COVID-19: small businesses, mid-size businesses that have had to close or drastically reconfigure operations and new businesses that were just getting on their feet before the crisis hit.
The COVID-19 Nonprofit Grant Assistance Program will allocate $50,000 in public funding to offset the loss of income related to revenue and other economic impacts for local nonprofits aiding in the assistance of services directly related to COVID-19. Each non-profit is eligible for up to $5,000.
The City of Fredericksburg, VA and its Economic Development Authority are working with the local business community to establish additional business-assistance programs in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The EDA and City of Fredericksburg teamed up on a business-relief program that led to $250,000 in grants being made to 107 Fredericksburg small businesses. The EDA and City are now reaching out to the business community to discuss additional ways to help, including additional grants, a subsidized gift card program and the purchase of items that allow businesses to safely reopen to the public. The EDA’s share of the funding would come from the Authority’s currently available funds, which have mostly come from fees paid by private developers who have issued bonds through the Authority. The City’s share would come from $2.5 million allocated to the City from the CARES Act based on its population. That money must be spent by December 30 and can be used only for COVID-related expenses.
The Brainerd (MN) City Council allocated $90,000 this month for a small business relief grant spearheaded by the local EDA. Businesses within the city of Brainerd with 10 employees or fewer are eligible to receive up to $3,000 each, with some exceptions. “We’re looking at the small businesses in Brainerd that are more likely to be on the edge at this point and who could actually benefit from a $3,000 grant,” Community Development Director David Chanski said.
REGIONAL RECOVERY PLANS FOCUS ON INDUSTRY SECTOR STRATEGIES
The Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development has received a grant to create sector strategies to help with the regional economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The $99,500 grant is coming from the GO Virginia Region 9 Council to target the workforce in certain sectors over the next 13 months.
The project was initially approved by a COVID-19 Strike Force, appointed by the council, to foster and advance projects to drive economic recovery. This is also the first project in the region to be approved under a new accelerated review process in partnership with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
“Soon after the GO Virginia State Board created the new GO Virginia Economic Resiliency and Recovery Grant Program, the Region 9 Council quickly responded by setting up a task force led by regional business leaders to accelerate support to regionally-focused ideas that can have an impact,” said Jim Cheng, the chair of the Region 9 Council, in a press release. “We are pleased to see this Workforce Recovery initiative advance quickly from concept to action.”
“By combining the expertise and resources of the private sector, higher education and nine localities in Central Virginia, the Partnership is uniquely positioned to facilitate an effective workforce recovery initiative,” said Helen Cauthen, president of the Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development. “This GO Virginia grant will provide critical funding for a part of what must be a multi-pronged approach to resilience and recovery.”
Growth and Opportunity Virginia (GO Virginia) is a statewide economic development initiative that aims to drive regional economic growth by incentivizing collaboration between business, education and local government with the help of grants. Region 9 includes the counties of Albemarle, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, Orange and Rappahannock, as well as the city of Charlottesville.
The Michigan Strategic Fund this month approved a broad range of initiatives, business expansions and community revitalization projects to drive the economic recovery of Michigan’s businesses and communities and to position the state for future prosperity, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced.
“[These] MSF actions build on our efforts to deploy every resource available to support Michigan’s businesses, communities and residents as they work to economically recover from the COVID-19 virus,” said MEDC CEO Mark A. Burton. “It is more vital than ever that we stay focused on restoring economic prosperity for all Michiganders and the projects approved today are putting our state in a position to not only recover economically, but to thrive.”
With the mid-May announcement, the MEDC has deployed 14 response programs in the past two months to support small businesses, communities, entrepreneurs and workers in all corners of Michigan in combating the economic impacts of COVID-19, providing support for more than 2,700 companies and helping retain more than 11,000 jobs for Michigan workers. These programs have reached all 83 counties in the state, assisting businesses across a range of industries, including food service, retail, healthcare, construction and professional services, among others.
Metro Community Development, Inc., a Community Development Finance Institution based in Flint, MI received approval on a $2-million loan through MEDC’s Capital Access program to make micro and small business loans ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 to Michigan’s small businesses in the 13 counties it serves, with an emphasis on businesses located in economically disadvantaged areas. The program is aimed at assisting those businesses that have been most impacted by the COVID-19 virus, such as restaurants, coffee houses, retail stores and service providers. Businesses can use these loans primarily for working capital, acquiring machinery and equipment, and inventory.
The Michigan Strategic Fund also approved updated guidelines to the MI State Trade Expansion Program (MI-STEP) to increase the reimbursement ceiling from 50 percent to 75 percent for international website development for companies impacted by COVID-19. Activities may include website translation, search engine optimization and localization services. The increased cap will help provide greater support for companies in going global with their business, making it more favorable for them to participate in export activities. The approved changes, based on directives from the U.S. Small Business Administration as part of the CARES Act, also include increasing caps for allowable reimbursements for small- and medium-sized businesses engaged in exporting activities.
MI-STEP is designed to spur job creation by empowering Michigan small businesses to export their products, and is administered by MEDC’s Export and International Trade Program. MEDC’s MI Project Exception Program (MI-PEP), which provides export assistance to companies that do not meet the SBA’s small business requirements, also received MSF approval of similar updates to its guidelines so that it remains consistent with the MI-STEP program.
SPEEDING MED DEVICES TO MARKET
The Michigan Strategic Fund is providing support for business growth projects in critical industries including medical device manufacturing.
Packaging Compliance Labs (PCL) is a medical device packaging engineering and testing firm headquartered in the city of Kentwood, MI. The company specializes in assisting global medical device manufacturers in speeding new medical devices to market while maintaining regulatory compliance to FDA and international requirements.
PCL is experiencing increased demand and plans to expand at its Kentwood facility, a project that will generate a total private investment of $2.57 million and create 27 high-wage jobs. PCL also is heavily invested in the training and development of its employees with its implementation of PCL “University” to put employees in a position for upward mobility. As a result, PCL has been awarded a $135,000 Jobs Ready Michigan program performance-based grant.
The Jobs Ready Michigan program was designed to provide grants for business expansion and location projects that lead to job creation and investments in Michigan that have a demonstrated training need, particularly in pursuing new opportunities for high-tech, high-demand and high-wage jobs.
“PCL has a worked closely with the Right Place, MEDC and several other local organizations. We are grateful to have these support systems available in our community,” said Packaging Compliance Labs President Matthew Lapham.
Business Facilities will be publishing COVID-19: Response and Recovery special reports and updates in each of our remaining issues for 2020. BF also is conducting webinar presentations with industry leaders discussing the emerging landscape of the post-COVID-19 world.
Our first COVID-19: Response and Recovery webinar drew nearly 300 attendees last month who heard Rosemary Coates, Executive Director of the Reshoring Institute, discuss disruptions to the global supply chain. Our next webinar, on June 22, will feature EBP chairman Glen Weisbrod discussing predictive analytics scenarios for industries impacted by the pandemic.
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