Parker’s Economic Development (ED) Department Becomes a Life-Line During COVID-19 Crisis
Tuesday, July 07, 2020
Darlene McCampbel, Economic Development Coordinator for Parker, connects face-to-face with roughly 70 Parker businesses each year. She listens and aids business owners on everything from finance and operational challenges to workforce development and future growth. But the sudden appearance of the novel Coronavirus and the ensuing global pandemic in March 2020 put everyone and everything into an unprecedented tailspin.
A few weeks after the initial lockdown, McCampbel started up her visits with businesses again—virtually, of course—knowing that owners’ primary concerns had shifted from operation and growth to just staying open. McCampbel was able to offer much-needed moral support, as well as guidance on how to access critical federal programs like the SBA Payroll Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. She also made connections between business owners and the Colorado Small Business Development Center, which provides no-cost consulting and low-cost training that have proved very helpful during this crisis.
While federal and state agencies were able to offer loans/grants to businesses, the Town made loans available through the Parker Revolving Loan Fund. ”Our work with the Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) began well before the COVID crisis,” explains McCampbel, “when Council approved funds that were then matched dollar for dollar with investments and grants from financial institutions, foundations and government agencies.” CEF partners with the Town to deploy the funds to small businesses that often lack traditional access to capital. McCampbel didn’t hesitate to connect one desperate Parker business owner to this fund.
While capital infusions were important, notes the ED coordinator, she also witnessed some creative business thinking that proved just as crucial for survival. One local restaurant, she explains, pivoted gracefully by consistently connecting with its loyal customer base via Facebook and restructuring its operational model for more take-out business. Employees who were servers transitioned into take-out specialists. The physical space was reorganized so employees could work more efficiently. New take-out containers that keep food fresh longer were introduced. The restaurant, McCampbel remarks, has not only survived but flourished.
The Economic Development Department also rose to the challenge. Parker ED surveyed area restaurants immediately upon learning of the shutdown orders, and created a one-stop source for online order/takeout/delivery offerings that was promoted through Town-wide communications. They also launched a helpful data tool on the Eco Devo web \site, which alerts the community of business openings and closures. Parker businesses can also list themselves, at no cost, including customized details like web addresses, modified hours, delivery options, promotions and more.
The struggle for Parker businesses, like those across the country, will continue until the pandemic releases its hold on the world. But McCampbel also sees a new kind of resiliency among business owners that gives her hope. “Many of our businesses are optimistic they will survive,” she says. And Parker ED will be there, in bad and good times, to help ensure these businesses tap into all the resources necessary to realize a bright, healthy future.