May 18, 2020
When Covid-19 impacted our communities and the shutdown began, we all were left scrambling to answer the mountain of questions our business partners had. There was a great deal of information being communicated out at the Federal, State and Local levels – often times it would get buried in emails, websites, webinars, notes taken from phone calls and the general chaos Covid has left in its wake.
A gap was identified early on and a need was evident. Our County needed a comprehensive repository that would provide critical up-to-date information during this crisis. In early March, the Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism proactively established the Covid-19 Crisis Resource Page – providing information on where people could get masks & equipment, what emergency and disaster recovery loans were available, and links to Federal, State and Local websites housing updates and resources.
As coping with the crisis turned to recovering from the crisis, we again identified the pressing need facing our business community. Understanding the importance of assisting these businesses through the re-opening process, the Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism developed the Re-Start Wyoming webpage.
There are a myriad of resources we have linked to offering guidance and resources to our partners, including, the NY Forward Website, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, and the US Chamber Foundation among many others.
This provides immediate updates on the status of New York State's Four-Phase Re-opening Plan, what industries & businesses fall under the plan, where to get additional information about what businesses fall under each phase, as well as, information on ongoing County recovery efforts.
In addition, we have provided sample plans and guidance from multiple industries to help a variety of sectors within Wyoming County. In concert with these guidelines, we have also compiled a series of templates to assist businesses with developing re-opening plans. These templates compiled so far include construction, manufacturing, and restaurants, and were made possible by working with different organizations within the region like the Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce, which coordinated the development of templates with these businesses. During this process, like we have all realized within the tourism industry, collaboration is critically important. It has also been the hallmark in developing this website.
Further aid is being offered to our business community through the Re-Start Wyoming Loan Program. The Wyoming County Business Center established the Re-Start Wyoming Loan Program to provide assistance to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis and to help “re-start" their businesses as governmental orders restricting business operations in Wyoming County are eased or lifted. Funds may be used to: modify current business operations to adapt to governmental orders imposing restrictions on business operations; assist in the re-opening of their businesses within 30 days once governmental orders have been lifted; and for payroll support, rent assistance, payment of utilities, replenishment of inventory, employee health care and accounts payable.
During this time, we have made every effort to continually communicate with our businesses community. We regularly email newsletters reminding our partners about these available resources, updating them on what's new at all levels of government, upcoming webinars of interest, grants & other financial aid available, as well as new programs we are running to provide visibility and assistant to businesses.
A recent example: last Friday, we launched a short YouTube video where our Chamber President & CEO Scott Gardner, walked viewers through the tools on our Re-Start Wyoming page, familiarizing them with the information they can find and what is available to them. We realized with so much information out there, it can be intimidating to process, so we wanted to make it more digestible and approachable for our businesses. This was also an important opportunity for Scott to give our businesses information on what they should be thinking about when developing and building their re-opening plans.
We are operating under four guiding principles: navigate, inform, plan, and advocate. Throughout the pandemic we have sought to navigate information that is changing daily and bring it to our businesses and community. Informing various sectors has been critical to helping leaders and business operators make decisions about their operations and the steps to take at each phase. Planning has been critical from the earliest days of the shut down and helping make informed decisions about the re-opening phases and how to prepare for an uncertain future. Lastly, advocacy is a vital role we all should take on. Our job as organization leaders is to stand up and speak out for our business communities for the overall physical and economic health of our greater communities.
We have a unique role within our communities, and can quickly interact with decision makers and be an active voice and expert on issues that will determine the future health of our counties, communities, and state. We need to continue to be adaptive and responsive to the ever changing needs of our business sectors – particularly our tourism and hospitality sectors – which have felt the greatest impact from the pandemic and will be the last to recover. We need to do everything possible to continue communicating with our operators, keeping them informed, bringing them educational programming, seeking financial aid where it may exist, and ultimately be a source of confidence and strength for these hard hit members of our business community. The hospitality industry and its marketing partners have a unique role to play in the recovery. Be the experts that you are, share your knowledge and creativity, lift up your businesses, and be the positive voice that lifts all ships as we work to bring back our tremendous industry. We are resilient and can overcome this challenge.
Director of Tourism & Marketing