Local Agencies Boost Businesses During Pandemic

This article was published in Thursday’s (March 19th, 2020) Herald and News
Written By: Danielle Jester, H&N Staff Reporter 

As local business and tourism sectors feel the impact of the many changes brought about by restrictions related to the coronavirus, more efforts can be seen by people and agencies to hold the community together. The Klamath County Chamber of Commerce is helping to inform business owners about where to turn for resources during the crunch and letting the community know which services are still offered by businesses in Klamath Falls when so much is being suspended.

KCCC Executive Director Heather Tramp reported that while some Klamath Falls residents are holing up in their homes or self-quarantining during the coronavirus pandemic, many others have expressed their desire to continue supporting local businesses in whatever way they can. She is focused on helping business owners navigate the changes at the state and federal level. Much of her time this week has been filled with conference calls with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the White House, the governor’s office, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and others.

A guide posted to the chamber’s Facebook page Monday provides “COVID-19 Guidance for Businesses and Employers.” It can be accessed by visiting bit.ly/COVID19guidance. It shows employers where to go for a variety of resources related to the coronavirus as it applies to businesses and their employees, including coronavirus relief from the Small Business Administration and the Family and Medical Leave Act provisions for COVID-19.

Tramp said she is “up at night” thinking about how to best serve the community through the coronavirus distress. She has been with KCCC for 13 years and expressed a deep love and concern for the community and its businesses. In light of that, she considered whether the chamber should continue focusing on promoting its own members, or if it should be assisting all businesses through the trying time. She ultimately decided that assisting all was the right thing to do. “This is a community issue,” she said of the effects of the coronavirus on the economy, adding, “Compassion feels right.”

Tramp reached out to local restaurant owners about whether they are providing drive-thru, takeout or Door Dash services during the dine-in ban and compiled a list to let area residents know how to continue supporting those places. Over 30 eateries are included; the list can be found on KCCC’s Facebook page.

While bar closures and the moratorium on dining-in have hit the restaurant industry hard, Tramp acknowledged that with many people unable to work, discretionary spending will take a hit as well, meaning some people will be less likely to patronize eateries. She predicts that retailers will be the next businesses to suffer the effects of the coronavirus’s impact on daily life and consumer spending habits.

“I think we need to be cautious, but I don’t know that we need to be fearful,” Tramp said of adjustments people are making to their lives during the pandemic. The KCCC Facebook page recognizes the importance of social distancing but provides many suggestions for how to support local businesses through the uncertainty. The recommendations include buying a gift card to use later, sharing about businesses on social media, buying online from local businesses when possible, refraining from asking for refunds if possible, sending a referral and booking a business’s services for later.

Some good news, Tramp said, is that she has fielded calls from people planning to visit Klamath Falls. When she informed them that the hotels are still open and most restaurants offer takeout, they decided to follow through with their trip.

Jim Chadderdon, Executive Director of Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau, shared, “In recent years the impact of tourism to Klamath County has increased from approximately $100 million annually to nearly $200 million annually, making inbound visitation one of Klamath County’s largest industries. Several hundred thousand people visit Klamath County annually for its events, myriad recreational opportunities, National and State Parks, theater and cultural attractions, and more. Tourism in Klamath County currently employs and generates over 1,200 jobs, many of which are likely to be affected short term by a slowdown in visitation.”

Discover Klamath has added a COVID-19 ALERT box to its website at www.DiscoverKlamath.com to provide information on impacts to public lands, cancellations/postponements of events and activities, and more. “If the public has questions beyond what is posted on the website, they are welcome to contact Discover Klamath Staff at 541-882-1501, or, email INFO@DiscoverKlamath.com,” Chadderdon said.

He noted that Discover Klamath will complete an economic-impact study in the next week on financial impacts from COVID-19 and provide the information to the Klamath County Commissioners. Additionally, Discover Klamath has modified its marketing outreach to slow-down/delay promotion “for a period of weeks until such time the threat of COVID-19 settles down and traveler sentiment reflects a shift towards resumption to pre-COVID-19 travel levels,” Chadderdon explained.

Andrew Stork, operations manager of Klamath County Economic Development Association, spoke briefly about the potential impacts to ongoing business projects in Klamath Falls. “With how fluid the situation is from a federal, state, and local level, it is difficult to gauge impacts just yet because the circumstances are so fresh. There’s naturally been projects that have had to temporarily slow down, but there are also highly active projects we are continuing to work on which hopefully shows long-term market confidence,” he described.

“KCEDA’s offices are coordinating with many local partners and collaborating with Governor’s Regional Solutions team on a regular basis to discuss what effects the situation is having in the area, and how our community can best present and deploy resources to businesses,” Stork added.

Meanwhile, Tramp is collecting stories from local business owners about specific effects their locations have suffered due to the coronavirus. Local stories are helpful when speaking with the governor’s office or FDA so that she can illustrate exactly how the community is being impacted.

Tramp also encouraged employees to apply for unemployment if their place of work is being hit hard by the coronavirus slow-down. The waiting period for unemployment is being waived due to the pandemic, so it’s much easier and faster for employees to benefit from than resource than usual. She emphasized that employers “won’t be dinged” when an employee applies.

KCCC will be updating the information on its Facebook page regularly to best aid businesses and employees through the coronavirus struggle. The chamber is also looking at ways to conduct some virtual operations, Tramp said.

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