Economic development organizations are working together to fund, advocate for, inform and connect businesses affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
The organizations are reacting to the pandemic that caused massive employee layoffs by shutting down ski resorts, bars, restaurants and more. As the nation’s response to the virus progresses, the regional organizations are working overtime to support businesses through the rough period.
“Everything is very fluid,” said Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District. “We’re in reaction mode, but we’re trying as a group to be a little more proactive.”
The Business Improvement District has been leading a meeting three times each week among development organizations, including the chambers of commerce for Durango, Ignacio and Bayfield; the city of Durango; Visit Durango; the Small Business Development Center; Region 9 Economic Development District; and others.
“There’s very few businesses or industries that haven’t been impacted negatively by what’s occurred here over the past couple of weeks,” Walsworth said.
One of the group’s top priorities is to connect small businesses to local, state and federal funding opportunities, like Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans with long repayment terms.
The organizations are also advocating with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton to ensure a federal stimulus bill includes enough support for small businesses.
And they are advocating for the city to relax some of its rules, like parking fees downtown, to support businesses.
“We want to be aware of all the opportunities ... where a business can get this operating capital that they’re desperate for,” Walsworth said.
They are conducting a survey of local businesses, which covers topics like layoffs and revenue decreases, to communicate the community’s needs to Tipton and other government officials.
Region 9 Economic Development District is working on a business relief fund that could provide 0% interest loans to local small businesses.
The organizations will create a webinar for small business owners who want updated COVID-19 response information, the best ways to adapt to restrictions, funding opportunities and what other resources are available.
The organizations are also updating the website, swcoda.org, to be a one-stop shop for businesses and community members in search of information or resources.
Most of the resources relate to La Plata County, but the website will expand to include information for surrounding counties, such as Montezuma, Dolores and Archuleta.
Businesses will be able to post updated services and hours in the BID business directory, which includes 400 downtown and north Main Avenue businesses.
In coming weeks, the BID board of directors and staff will take up rent relief for businesses. They also plan to add a job board to the Downtown Durango website.
Employees who have been temporarily laid off from their workplaces will be able to post skills and availability on the website. They will then be connected to work opportunities in the area.
Durango and surrounding communities are resilient, Walsworth said.
“We’ve proven that time and time again through disasters,” he said. “We all do believe we will get through it, and there will be opportunities on the other side for businesses to thrive.”