In visiting with many business owners it’s very clear that no two situations are the same.
With that, no post-pandemic plan will be the same either. Many that struggled before the pandemic have closed their doors for good. Others have tightened up and become as efficient as possible, similar to the great recession. This will position them well to survive and thrive once some normalcy returns. While a few have found unexpected increases in demand during this difficult time, that will allow their business to grow and flourish in the future. Technology and collaboration will play a large role in the post-pandemic workforce.
Bars and restaurants are playing the difficult balance of safety, while trying to save their businesses. The hope is that the economy will eventually surge back and pent-up demand for entertainment, dining and nightlife will revive them. Signs indicate a desire by many to get out of the house more often and enjoy leisure time, the mental health benefits are clear. Supporting our hospitality sector will allow the region’s diverse offerings to continue and new opportunities to prevail.
Companies like P.S. Industries hold massive backlogs of work that has been delayed. They are streamlining processes and preparing for the inevitable surge of green-lit projects. Indefinite delays can lead to over-staffing problems, but confidence remains and several positions are available for new hirings.
Touring Philadelphia Macaroni Company recently showed volumes that are through the roof as they attempt to keep up with demand for their affordable, staple foods. A recovery for them means incrementally coming back to a sustainable pace. Any company involved in production or distribution of PPE or household paper products has likely found similar success.
Tech companies are thriving as demand for innovative products and applications surge as more work from home. NASDAQ recently reached its all-time high. The likes of Zoom, Amazon, Tesla, Apple and Netflix are soaring to record highs.
With any adversity comes opportunities and we continue to seek public/private partnerships. At the city, we continue to stress the importance of workforce and career development, with locally leveraged investments in the Nistler School of Business and Public Administration and working on actions to leverage local dollars with Economic Development Administration funds for the Herald building to serve as a community technology hub and accelerator. Creating high-tech clusters provides opportunities for local companies like Airtonomy, Tailoree, iSight Drone Services, Northdacoder, and many others to grow and scale. We need to continue working with our community partners in UND, Northland, Grand Forks Public Schools, and the Public Library among others to envision and realize the post-pandemic 21st century workforce.
Sharing information on programs such as the Payroll Protection Plan and Economic Resiliency Grants can smooth out the current valleys that most businesses are feeling. Federal stimulus has also aided many, through stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits, putting extra and needed money in our citizens’ pockets.
The city has tightened up the budget while still spreading optimism by investing in the future. Early estimates in sales tax collections have shown to be overly conservative and monthly numbers continue to trend positively. Building permits have been trending above the five-year average amidst the global pandemic. CARES Act funding that is now in line to be distributed to municipalities will aid greatly in shoring up reserves and allow for continued spending on economic and business growth. As virus concerns eventually wane, community confidence and business confidence will go hand and hand.
It is important to be grateful for the open space and thoughtful community we all share. It is a very challenging time, but a great opportunity for us to come together and support one another like never before.
Stay safe, well, and strong.
Brandon Bochenski is mayor of Grand Forks.