During COVID-19, many community organizations are collaborating to support local business. The town of Thief River Falls approached this challenge by helping local businesses prepare emergency and contingency planning for their daily operations.
First, community leaders surveyed the local business community about their financial needs. They then hosted regular webinars and made revolving loan funds more accessible to area businesses.
Key aspects of business continuity that communities should re-evaluate and address during COVID-19 include:
- Reviewing the business’s risk management options through insurance, information technology, finances, and supply networks.
- Developing a safety plan to address labor shortage issues.
- Retooling business operations to provide discounts or specials to clients.
- Negotiating new terms with lenders, suppliers, and vendors.
- Experimenting with new technology and applications to reach new markets.
- Coordination between local and state organizations and chambers to stay up to date on local business continuity plans.
While the list above is not exhaustive, it provides a starting point for communities to better navigate the economic challenges of COVID-19. It is also important to maintain communication between local businesses, chambers, and economic development associations during the pandemic — this will help business retention efforts now and after the crisis has passed.
Thief River Falls is one example of a Minnesota community supporting its local businesses proactively during this new economic environment. Advance Thief River, a regional economic development initiative, created a “businesses-only” Facebook page, sent a survey from the local chamber to area businesses, and hosted a series of weekly webinars to address local business needs.
The community’s relationship with both Advance Thief River and Visit Thief River Falls has helped the city restructure its revolving loan program so funds are more accessible to area businesses experiencing economic hardship. By collaborating and pooling resources quickly, these organizations were able to address — and respond to — local business needs early on during COVID-19. This proactive response has helped the community better adapt to the evolving needs of local businesses.