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Downtown News for March 19, 2020

From Downtown Digest,

Coping with Coronavirus Part I


March 19, 2020

Part 1: Leading Downtown in Challenging Times

Downtown Digest The impact of Coronavirus will be big, deep, and constantly in the news, but downtown leaders must carry on.

Interviews with top economic development professionals suggest a range of strategies for supporting at-risk businesses, protecting the downtown’s market position, and growing the local economy in the months ahead. In this and future eNewsletters, we will share many of those strategies.

Tip #1. Form an economic development committee
If your downtown does not already have an economic development committee or similar group, consider partnering with the chamber of commerce or convention and visitors bureau to establish one. This type of committee is well suited to tackling the following tips.

New Mexico MainStreet suggests that committee members include:

  • Those who work in the management or sales and marketing of downtown’s commercial real estate.
  • Property owners who want to maintain loyal renters and keep good businesses afloat.
  • Businesspeople themselves, who have a vested interest in keeping enough revenue flowing to maintain their staff and pay their bills.
  • Bankers who are making loans to downtown tenants, businesses, and property owners.

Tip #2. Help local businesses take advantage of relief programs
Compile information on Federal, state, and local relief programs. Contact small business owners to assess their needs and help them with applications for assistance.

Tip #3. Provide networking and peer counseling forums, virtually
Stressed business owners appreciate the chance to network and compare survival strategies with their peers. They can do this while maintaining social distancing with tools such as Zoom Meetings, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts.

Tip #4. Counsel individual business owners
Owners of distressed businesses often embrace the guidance of a small group of peer advisors who maintain discretion. SCORE is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration, and is an excellent source for these services. The downtown’s economic development committee is also well suited to offer business response teams to council individual business owners.

Tip #5. Encourage local shopping, virtually
Individuals and businesses can continue to support local businesses, even if they can’t visit those businesses. For example, encourage people to:

  • Shop online or via phone. Many downtown businesses have a robust online presence.
  • Pre-buy goods and services. In many cases customers can pay in advance for items such as haircare, children’s art and dance classes, adult fitness classes, gift cards, and more.
  • Order prepared food for pick up or delivery. Many businesses remain open for delivery and take out orders which may be placed by phone, or via online and mobile services such as Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash.

Next week, more ideas on leading downtowns in challenging times.