Welcome                                                                                      Terence Roberts

 

Initiative/COVID-19 Updates

Congressman Duncan was unable to be with us today because he needed to be present for a vote, but we hope to have him with us next week, when he will likely have even better information for us.

Entrepreneur Ecosystem – Erin Ouzts, Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem

Erin’s featured work group this week was the storytelling group, who want to tell the stories of who entrepreneurs are. They are not just the high-tech wunderkind start-up types, who only make up a very small percentage of entrepreneurs, but any small business owner.

Information about previous weekly UEE webinars can be found here.

Scams & Fraud – Vee Daniel, Better Business Bureau of the Upstate

Vee expanded on some of the information in this post, with additional information for employers and businesses who might have employees paying bills or making purchases for the company. Her recommendations are to be savvy when it comes to product claims; buy only from reputable stores and websites (there should be contact information on the website); preferably to buy from local, verifiable sources; and not to fall prey to phone calls claiming to be from banks or utilities asking for financial information.

 TATT COVID-19 Response Update                                  Dean Hybl

  • Upstate COVID-19 Link Repository                      Sharon Purvis
  • Upstate Virtual Listening Tour—we will be trying to schedule these for mid to late May for each of the non-urban counties.

 

County Updates

  • Abbeville – Tim Hall, from the City of Abbeville, discussed the challenges utilities have faced early on with the COVID-19  mandated changes to  operations and navigating how to deal with citizens who don’t have access to pay online or by credit card, as we were required to close lobbies and drive thru services. Abbeville and other utilities continue to honor the non-disconnect for critical services under the “state of emergency” and they will be working to assist small businesses with flexible payment plans to help them get back to normal revenue streams once things return to normal. He also mentioned the upcoming revenue challenges for smaller rural municipalities that will not be fully known for a few more months as the result of industries being closed during this time along with not being eligible for any COVID-19 related expenses via federal reimbursement in the current aid packages.
  • Union – Katherine Pendergrass, with Workforce Development in Union County, gave updates on the county’s 20-year comprehensive plan, which they have continued to work on and which should be complete in another week or two, and the county’s transit plan, which is coming together except for having a lead agency to take it on.

As good news from the county, she talked about Arthur State Bank, which assisted 40 small business owners with PPP loans, but there were also sad stories from other businesses who were struggling.

  • Oconee – Annie Caggiano, from the Oconee Economic Alliance, talked about the disaster recovery efforts in the wake of last week’s tornado in Seneca. Eighty homes are a complete loss, with another 170 or so having sustained significant damage. All told, there were a couple of thousand homes with some damage, which is a significant number in a small community.

Borg Warner, which was heavily damaged by the tornado, is working hard to get the plant reopened, she said.

Other counties are providing a positive update and community challenge, shared by Sharon Purvis:

  • Anderson (Pam Christopher, chamber of commerce) Encouraging: The county offices have been great about checking in with the municipalities and school districts daily, seeing what they need and keeping them informed

Challenging: The biggest thing is that even with all the money that’s been received, it’s not enough, and with the CARES Act money depleted, it’s left people and businesses needing more. Now they’re waiting for the next round of funding.

  • Cherokee (from Ken Moon, Cherokee County Development Board) Encouraging: The Dollar Tree distribution center is hiring an additional 100 people to keep up with demand

(from Frannie Stockwell, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce) Challenging: They are starting to see some businesses close, and others are unable to get the loans for a variety of reasons—either the funding is gone or they don’t qualify

  • Greenville (Teri Brinkman, Greenville County Schools) Encouraging: Today we served the 500,000th free meal to a child in Greenville County.  We have been providing free meals to children 18 and under since the first day of the closure, March 16.  We have expanded our location from 15 original schools to 84 sites, 69 of which are delivered by our buses, which stick around for two hours to provide free WiFi access to students in the area.

Challenge: Parents are disheartened and overwhelmed trying to balance work, home, economic stress, and supervising school work.  Students miss their teachers, friends, and routines.  Teachers are finding it is harder to teach and engage students remotely and to really know what they need.  Seniors are missing out on proms and are unsure what type of graduation ceremonies will be possible. Yesterday’s news that we are closed to in-person instruction the rest of the year was the right thing to do and not unexpected, but everyone is grieving just a little.

  • Greenwood (Angelle LaBorde, Greenwood County Chamber of Commerce): Encouraging: We are seeing economic development activity plus existing industry project expansion

Challenge:  We are working through details to create a recovery plan with all community partners.

  • Laurens (Jonathan Irick, Main Street Laurens): For the most part, businesses have stayed active, embracing online and delivery options, and the community has been very supportive of both retail stores and restaurants.

Challenge: Lack of funding—only one business was able to get a PPP loan, and one got an EIDL advance. Also, there is concern about how things are going to look with social distancing in the near future—how to have events and draw in customers.

  • Pickens (Cindy Hopkins, Easley Chamber of Commerce): Encouraging: People are adapting to a virtual/remote business model—it’s forced some to cross that bridge who had been reluctant, and they’re seeing an enhancement that will carry over to how they’ll do things long-term. Also, people are doing creative things to give back to first responders and medical personnel.

Unexpected challenge: Recycling centers/landfill have doubled and tripled their average intake—the average day is higher than the normal high weekend of spring cleaning, and they’re having to bring in extra containers and trying to man the centers.

  • Spartanburg (Alex Moore, United Way of the Piedmont): Encouraging: The responsiveness of multiple organizations, and collaboration. Spartanburg is always good at that, but this is really shining a light on the willingness to work together. Also, amazing response to COVID relief fund: over $220K raised, mostly from corporate donors.

Challenge: Confusing information/misinformation, helping people sort through it. What’s open? What’s not open? What are guidelines?

Adjourn                  Terence Roberts