An unexpected reason for shopping local, continuing questions on emergency financing, how to tell employees about reduced working hours and a critically important survey from the North Dakota Department of Commerce were some of the questions and ideas brought up at the second installment of Business Listening Sessions held Tuesday, March 24.

Shopping locally does more than just support local businesses, it has a remarkable effect on the supply chain, according to Courtnee Jensen, who works at the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

“(Colleagues) are saying that shopping local isn't just for those businesses,” Jensen submitted to the group. “Shipping from national sources is jamming up the postal systems and making supply chains slower.”

City Council member and meeting moderator Bret Weber, said buying online could add to the problem. Some retailers have seen empty shelves of necessary items, which has extended the time it takes to resupply those items.

“Take that message home, to make sure that we are buying everything we can locally,” said Weber to the more than 100 virtual attendees at the meeting.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

The series of meetings is designed to hear concerns from Grand Forks businesses and is carried out by videoconferencing. The purpose of the meetings is to generate a list of “solutions and support,” according to Weber, that will then be presented to state and federal officials.

The meetings are organized by various partners including the city, The Chamber of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks and the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation.

Keith Lund, president and CEO of the Grand Forks Region EDC, said a business survey will be released later this week by the state Department of Commerce. The survey asks respondents to rank their priorities and needs as the coronavirus situation continues to hit businesses’ bottom lines.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to inform the state government of the impacts on business and the need for sound policy,” said Lund, about the state’s efforts.

Questions at the city level ranged from property tax relief, discounts on business licensing fees and sanitation and recycling fees. Weber said the city council could possibly meet more often to discuss such items.

Weber in fact, seemed pleased to hear the idea of discounting licensing fees, saying “that is exactly the kind of question that we are looking for.”

A meeting participant lamented the need to tell employees their hours would be reduced, without knowing when they would return to normal. In response, Paula Anderson, Grand Forks Chamber chair-elect and owner of Sterling Carpet One, said she had to let all of her part-time staff go, one of the many “tough decisions” she has had to make.

“Yes, it’s a struggle,” said Anderson. “But all of your employees know what we’re dealing with and what you are dealing with.”