Scannelli column: Help for local small businesses, nonprofits and self-employed
By Sandi Scannelli
For the Clemmons Courier
Here we are — a few long weeks into the stay-at-home order. The COVID-19 Clemmons-Lewisville Response Fund team has been meeting weekly to exchange community updates on how we are faring through all this and addressing needs as they emerge. We know it’s going to be a long journey to recovery. So far, what we are learning should come as no surprise — neighbors are helping neighbors; faith groups and nonprofits are checking in on their members; eager-to-get-out walkers happily greet live faces and check in with each other — from a six-foot distance, of course. And every phone call with a friend or colleague is longer than usual and more personal than usual. We are physically distant, but perhaps more socially connected now than during our pre-pandemic lives. These are the bright spots.
Yet, we remain concerned about our local employers who are either closed or operating with some combination of reduced revenue, fewer employees, carrying inventory and other expenses, and trying to keep positive. Small business owners are accustomed to risk and adapting to changing markets, but a pandemic wasn’t part of any business plan. Our local businesses and nonbusiness employers are essential to our economy and community, providing convenient goods and services, jobs, a tax base, contributing generously to local causes, events, and school programs … and so much more. On April 15, the covernor reported 561,000 unemployment claims in three weeks (compared to a typical week of 3,000 claims). And many have yet to be able to access the application. Yikes! It’s a reminder that we sure do need and value our employers. Yes, an array of federal and state support is available, quickly released through many different programs and avenues. And all the programs and sources of financial support serve a different purpose, with criteria and different points of access. And the resource landscape is changing daily. How does an employer quickly navigate all the sources and information while the water is steadily rising and constantly changing direction?
There is good news. The Lewisville-Clemmons Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Forsyth Tech’s Small Business Center’s Allan Younger, Fuller Parham of First Reliance Bank and a Small Business Center mentor, and with support from the Clemmons Community Foundation and its COVID-19 Response, is launching a special program this week (April 22) providing a resource person to small businesses, nonprofits, and others. These resource people, called resource navigators, will work one-on-one to help employers identify what’s available, the criteria, and what’s needed in the application process, and where to apply. Employers do not need to be chamber members. Every employer in Clemmons and Lewisville can access a personal navigator to help guide through the changing maze of resources available. Who are these “navigators?” They are business professionals from the fields of banking, accounting, finance, insurance, and Small Business Center mentors who have all stepped in to generously volunteer a portion of their busy day to have a confidential conversation and offer assistance. The resource navigators, many working in the thick of the programs, work to stay on top of the changes as they occur … perhaps sparing employers from running down fruitless rabbit holes. Kudos to these generous professionals who want to help. Interested in talking to a resource navigator? Call 336-518-0114 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We appreciate our local employers and all they do in our communities. Let’s all help support local businesses through this terrible time. The Clemmons Courier has published a list of local businesses still open. Read the list, make your list, stay safe and physically distant, and purchase locally. After all, we not only need our local employers, we care about them. This mess is not over yet, but through our community’s connectedness and neighborly hearts, we’ll take care of each other through to recovery.
Sandi Scannelli is president and CEO of the Clemmons Community Foundation.