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115 Natchez small businesses plan to reopen, survey reveals

NATCHEZ — Natchez, Inc. Economic Recovery Taskforce’s Small Business Sub committee finalized a survey seeking guidance from the regional small business community in hopes of identifying immediate needs to assist in the re-opening efforts.

“The results of this survey opened our eyes to immediate assistance we can provide our business community to help them be more successful as well as long term projects that will ultimately assist existing business and help us to recruit new business to the region,” said Chandler Russ, executive director of Natchez, Inc.

The survey received 115 responses from the small business community mainly representing a variety of professional services, retail, food & beverage and self-employed.

Of the respondents, 95 of the 115 had fewer than 50 employees with the same number having been in business more than 5 years.

All respondents plan to re-open with 91 having already re-opened.

Ninety-two percent of the businesses had no concern nor need for assistance to re-hire their workforce.

More than 100 of the respondents had developed an online presence for their business and used telecommunications to interact with customers and clients during the pandemic, and over 100 of the businesses had begun implementing new business practices to sanitize surfaces and protect employees and customers from COVID-19 and other viruses.

“All in all, the results of this survey proved that we have a strong business community in our region. Through the struggles of the pandemic and stay home orders, our business community has managed to stay positive and resilient,” said Sue Stedman, Natchez, Inc. chairman. “The Miss Lou region will rebound from this economic crisis stronger and faster than ever before.”

The survey’s overall purpose was to identify resources needed for our small business community to successfully reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on the responses, Natchez, Inc. Economic Recovery Taskforce’s Small Business sub committee identified the following recommendations:

Advertising:

  1. Continue to advertise Shop SMART Locations to make the public aware that businesses are open, and continue the spend local marketing campaigns;
  2. Encourage local media groups coordinate Coop Advertising campaigns for local business sectors (i.e. Restaurants, Retail shops, Hotels/B&Bs, Museums/Tours, etc.) allowing local businesses affordable advertising options as well as encouraging local businesses to utilize local media resources in their advertising efforts;

Capital and Investments:

  1. Continue to research and share availability of grant/loan programs for small businesses. Request local lending institutions present to business networking groups (i.e. Chambers of Commerce, Business & Civic League, etc.) to educate the business community of local resources;
  2. Seek local vendors willing to discount goods and services related to business/employee/customer sanitation for the certified Shop SMART Locations.

Training:

  1. Encourage Chambers of Commerce to offer training opportunities to business regarding PPP forgiveness applications;
  2. Encourage Chambers of Commerce to offer training series for small businesses to maximize their online presence and sharpen their social media presence;

Technology:

  1. Develop an asset map of broadband services within the region and identify growth opportunities to increase broadband capacity; and
  2. Identify additional Coop Office Space and Public Video Conferencing locations in the region to promote in Natchez, Inc.’s Remote Worker Recruitment efforts.

 

These recommendations are being discussed with local partners to develop a delivery timeline and strategy towards implementation.

“We look forward to working with our regional partners, such as the Chambers of Commerce and Business & Civic League, to assist in the delivery of these recommended action items,” said Heather Malone, deputy director of Natchez, Inc. and executive director of Concordia Economic Development.