GUEST SPEAKERS

the full report

Greg: Well good morning everybody we appreciate you taking time today to come on to our Growl Connex event. Typically, we would hold these events and record them in person. We are now having virtual Crowl Connex events and so due to many reasons obviously. So, we are going to have these events we’re looking at hosting them monthly or sorry weekly and right now with different we’re bringing on different speakers and industries. I’m going to ask Kim to be involved when she can because she’s keeping a running list of all the great resources for people and businesses. And so, it’s going to be really important for us to kind of continue to have these conversations on an ongoing basis virtually. And we were kind of talking before we got started here about how we have you know different types of people that you know we’re so used to going to face-to-face meetings and networking events and chamber meetings and things like that like I’m used to doing and that all came to a complete halt. And so now we’re going to look at well how do how should we keep connected to the community, how do business leaders learn about these things. You know there’s a lot of great information out there, there’s a lot of false information out there which I think Kim you and I’ve been talking about.

So, I’d like to get started again my name is Greg Olson, I’m the founder of Growl agency. We have a wonderful team in downtown Grand Junction and really the star of the show is Kim Woodworth with economic development council Colorado. So, Kim I like to give you a second to kind of introduce yourself and tell everybody like what an EDCC is.

Kim: Great thank you so much Greg for having me today. I am the Operations Director for the economic development council of Colorado. We are a nonprofit industry association that supports economic development efforts across the state of Colorado. We have been working very closely with our state partners to help disseminate through the information and then create a channel of communication to be certain that we are reaching all facets of our state from local to statewide to our businesses to our strategic partners. And so, as much communication as we can have through these channels and also you know making certain that we are you know creating content that is you know valuable to the end user but also helps us be able to get through what we’re going through right now. And the challenges of doing these things from home you do have dogs in backgrounds so I do apologize. As a friend said, “You can’t put a mute on a dog.” So, anyway so still be barking [laughs].

Greg: That’s okay Kim. Some of us as we were getting ready to have this call, luckily, we dialed in early which is a good virtual talking Ted my dog decided to yank everything off of my desk as she got tangled in the cord [laughs]. So, here we go we’ll have dog barking, kids laughing and that’s okay. You know one of the things I want to start what about 30-minute discussion or so and then if we have questions, we can go on to chat and we’re already seeing some come in. I’d like to talk about you know a lot of things people have been asking me is “You know what should we be doing now? I mean what’s happening over the next month?” I mean we don’t know how long this can continue you know what’s going to happen. So, a little bit about kind of those you know are there resources available today Kim and you know what are some thoughts and what are you hearing out there?

Kim: So, we know for now the most immediate assistance that has come out and it was announced yesterday that Colorado all 64 counties are now eligible for the SBA low-interest federal disaster loan. And so, businesses can begin applying for that immediately and we do on our website as well as Choose Colorado.com and EDCC see online org both have pages for Covid-19 and resources. So, there are links that will take you to the you know to the SBA place where you can actually apply for the loan.

Greg: So, Kim can you say that and we are going to send out a recap of this and a link to everybody and we’re going to give it out to different entities that they want to share and we’ll have a little write-up with these links that you’re talking about of course. And maybe we can also share a screen. What was that link again? Just so if you can say that again for an EDCC link.

Kim: So, the EDCC link is EDCCOnline.org/Covid-19- resources. A lot of the information that’s coming onto our web site is also is actually starting so a lot that information comes from ChooseColorado.com/Covid-19.

Greg: Great. Well let’s continue on. I think you know we’re looking at all these resources coming in I know we’re going to have federal and state resources and I know we’re going to have other types of resources on here are coming available and we’ll continue to monitor that and get that out as we’re planning. So, one of the things big things I’m talking to different businesses about and as I have conversations sometimes until 10/11 o’clock at night and then you know should you be planning now- I mean as we get through to this. You know because well now that people agree that’s going to be going on for a while I think that’s some of the concern is like you know these things I can be doing now and into six months and you know people are confused about what is you know what is an SBA low interest loan. We know that Facebook has some small business grants. We know a lot of these things are happening, so I guess there’s just a lot of confusion out there. So, I don’t know you know kind of guidance that you’re seeing or things that you like to tell people.

Kim: So, we do we have we do have a lot of immediate assistance that is being that is available right now. And as you had mentioned and alluded to Facebook has created a small business grants program. The El Parmar Foundation has small business grants for nonprofit entities. Kiva which is a non-profit lending organization also, has developed 0% interest loans and so very interesting concept there. Again, a lot of this is found on ChooseColorado.com/Covid-19.

 So, we have the loan assistance programs and I know that there’s been some concern about loans versus actual cash coming to these businesses. This is a very short term. These are low interest rate loans that are that will help you be able to get through this short term and really in a business sense these are very short-term issues and so it’ll help you ride the wave if you will. And then we also have through our workforce and supporting our workforce we do have some alternatives to laying off employees. So, before businesses they think that they have to lay off you know do the research.

Our Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has a work share program and so they will share half the burden. So, if your employees have to go halftime then the employees can apply to be able to get assistance for the other half. And then that way it just helps us kind of continue working but also helps you on your bottom line.

We also have transitions assistance. So, we don’t want to just drop our employees and have them have to go through the process of having to go through the unemployment insurance process. But we do have through the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment they do have assistance programs to help us move those employees into other work.

We also have where the CDLE had required a paid sick leave from employers to help assist with those employees who might have flu-like symptoms, give them four days if they didn’t normally have sick leave. So, they are requiring businesses to cover that and it is really only a four-day period until they find out whether or not they have it or not. There is on CDLE’s website a list of what businesses are required including, our leisure and hospitality, food services, child care, education and there’s more but all of those links again are found on these webpages.

Then we’re also seeing and this is the most recent which is really amazing and honestly as an economic developer we really tout the importance of business task forces or coalitions. As our businesses come together, they’re able to resolve large issues and help us get through you know whether or not it’s a work force issue or if it’s a funding stream, our business coalitions have always been a really strong way of being able to get through those times.

So, that’s the most immediate things that we’re seeing right now as we are all working very hard behind the scenes to come up with opportunities and new funding streams and ways to keep the economy going.

Greg: Yeah and I think some of the conversations were having with other business leaders I talked about is, I think it’s probably important to start looking at activating some of these loans now for your own business versus waiting too long. Because my feeling could be and I’m not sure if you can tell me like from a stateside how they’re going to support all these requests that are going to come in right because much like to healthcare there’s only so many people that are going to be able to have these look at applications and things like that. So, I don’t know do you have any thoughts on that? Because I think I’d rather see businesses be ready to have money available versus waiting until they’re just at their last nickel and then you know trying to get a hold of somebody. So, I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that.

Kim: I do think that it will help. You know I keep the term of planning the comeback keeps coming back and resonating with me every day but if you are planning for that comeback giving yourself a little bit of that will give room to be able to take on more infrastructure. Or what it’s going to take for you to come back having that loan there and the assistance is definitely going to help you.

Greg: Yeah, I agree with that. I like that planning for the comeback I think that’s what we’re all kind of figuring out our plan is it is shifting every day at least from our standpoint at Growl we’re having different conversations with clients, we’re kind of figuring out what that looks like. We kind of have a month-by-month plan as what could happen with this is it could go into the summer.

You know I think one of the questions as I wrote down some things and we feel like ‘sitting ducks’ waiting for something to happen. You know people are asking like what should they do you know how to be a part of their community you know what are you seeing out there. I mean I see this rush while they’re trying to integrate this you know the community and things like that. So, I mean these are kind of like really, I guess it could be scary time. So, I don’t know you know what you’re seeing out there you know what your economic development partners are seeing across the state that’s what I find so fascinating about being a member of your organization is you know you talk to these other really smart individuals in the communities like Hugo which is one of my favorite little rural towns like bringing up and you know because it’s just that there’s just entrepreneurs that are just making stuff happen. So, you know that’s how I think we’re going to get through this is sharing these ideas community by communities right and you know I’m going to be looking for people that I can talk to in some of these other villages right too in like what is happening. So, I don’t know what your thoughts are on that.

Kim: So, I saw in the news the other day someone had said, “Trepidation is a scary thing”, obviously and so we can’t live in our fear. But Americans are our doers and we’re asked not to do anything right now we’re asked to sit in our homes and you know wait this out and so what can we be doing. And we’re already starting to see businesses reimagining what they can do so all businesses you know serve a good. They have services they have goods. What can those goods and services do to help us right now through these phases? For instance, we have a story of you know a distillery who is using their [Inaudible 14:23] proof alcohol to turn it into hand sanitizer and they’re donating it to the hospitals. We have many car manufacturers who are now starting to make as many masks as they can to get to our medical providers.

So, what can we do as businesses to be looking at the certain the services that we provide to help get us through this as quickly as we possibly can so we all can get back to work?

Greg: Yeah, I really like that you are exactly right. I was talking to some local hospitals and you know what they’re working with different churches to make masks. In the event that they need them you know they love the hand sanitizer because you can’t find any and who knew this is going to be a thing. You know I think every person probably knows how many rolls of toilet paper they have at this point which I never thought would be a thing like my eleven rolls. It’s like then you have to start doing [laughs] I know I mean are we going to do toilet paper masks. Yeah and I think we’re going to get things like you know how do we buy local right and I think that’s the thing.

I’m going to bring in Diane Slinky from Grand Junction Chamber in Libya, if you can unmute her please. And I think you know one thing I’m a huge advocate of Chambers and I think a lot of times they’re just they work so hard and I’ve been a member of Chambers for as long as I can remember and in the western slope actively involved in all the Chambers. I think you know this is where we really have those resources. I know Diane’s team is working very hard behind the scenes to get information. So, Diane can you hear us?

Diane: You bet.

Greg: Thank you for being on I don’t always know we have these calls and meetings. I’m not sure who is going to be there but thank you for being here. Diane has been putting stuff in the chat for me so I’m like yeah I can probably talk about this and say what you said Diane, but I think it’s better if I just bring you on and kind of maybe have you and Kim take over and we can call it the Kim and Diane show at this point. I’m just trying to bring these resources together and we’re going to share out. Diane, I know you guys are working really hard to get information out too. So, I’m going to just let maybe you and Kim kind of talk back and forth here about some of the things that you’re seeing Diane in resources because this is really what this is all about is how do we get this information out to people.

Diane: You bet so and good morning Kim, good to see you. We see each other fairly regularly in this format.

Greg: Introduce yourself so that for the recording so people know like when I send us out and if someone in Alaska watches this, I mean you know that– and if you could speak in four languages that’d be great too. I’m joking. [Laughter] Yeah go ahead and introduce yourself because I know you’ve only been doing these a couple years- I’m joking and you have a lot of insight in this. I’ve been on trips with you, legislative trips. I’ve learned so much just being in different sessions and now this is where really Chambers come together to like help people. So, go ahead just a quick introduction and then go into what you want to talk about.

Diane: Sure, Diane Slinky with the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. And a couple of things I really appreciate Greg your comments about Chambers we actually have a Zoom chat later this afternoon with all four chambers in the Valley and some of our policy makers, state legislators and local lawmakers to kind of talk about what’s going on. I will tell you I’m sorry I have been kind of filling up the chat box. There are a few things that I think everybody needs to know and we’re trying to push this out as quickly as possible as well. But the landscape is changing so quickly. We will have a link to applying for those SBA economic disaster loans and my understanding is that may be open as early as today. But I think what’s important for people on this call to know is that John Ersean down at the business Incubator Center is making his team available and is encouraging you to reach out to them so that you have everything in order in order to apply for those loans including an updated at least simple business plan and some other things because SBA requirements are still in place for those loans.

And the other thing that that has changed rapidly is that while the state of Colorado mandated paid leave for four days, the latest piece of legislation that was signed by President Trump in the last 48 hours requires all employers to offer up to 12 weeks of paid medical leave related to Covid-19. The federal government intends to help with that cost by offering you tax credits on your federal payroll tax filings. So, they’re going to try and help you out with but again everybody and it doesn’t matter what size business you are going to be required to do that.

We are obviously we’re trying to update resources I know that Gegep has a resource page. Ours is being updated almost hourly and will be available. One of the things that I think is really important is to you where we can support our restaurant folks, they were the ones that were hit first with all of this. And we actually have a takeout toolkit that gives you a link that takes you right to online menus which makes it very easy to do.

So, I do want everyone to know that we’ve been working in a series of economic development conference video conferences here. Earlier we were on one Wednesday with all of our ED partners to figure out ways that we can help keep cash in the hands of the small business owners so they can have the cash flow. There will be an action by the Grand Junction City Council on Monday evening to basically forego the payment of remittance of your sales tax to the city for the month of March. If you’ve already paid it you’re going to get it back in the form of a check, if not you won’t have to remit it. That was actually a suggestion from one of our small business owners, one of our small restaurant owners said, “Can you work on that?” I have made that same request to the administration at the Capitol as well. So, I have requested of the governor’s office that they look at some sort of a tax deferral process that allows these small businesses to keep their cash for right now. A number of states are doing that. The example I sent them was from South Carolina which again at the state level no sales taxes are being collected and other things until June in that state.

So, those are some policy things that are in the works at the local level in particular that I know where we’re looking at, we’re also talking to Mesa County to see if we might be able to do some tax deferrals there as well. So, again we’re looking at every possible angle to make cash immediately available to our small business community.

Greg: Yeah and one thing I will tell you look at all your local Chambers and again I get every one of the Chamber’s in the Valley. And probably people that are from all over when they if you listen to this you know that’s a great place to start. Your economic development a lot of times are similar and in communities as I work across the country. These are people that are really closely tied would you say Kim and Diane to the local state level. I’m just trying to get people like where to go, not only local but you know if you’re calling in Alaska or North Carolina or wherever what would you ask these business owners to do? What do you say you know go listen to your chamber, your economic development or you know what kind of words of advice would you have for them to look for?

Diane: I would just say go ahead and reach out to them. We have our full staff of six has been in probably non-stop communication with our members. I’ve taken phone calls from small business owners we sent out a survey earlier this week and at the bottom of “If you want us to reach out back out to you give us your name and we had 35 businesses so far that have said we want to talk to you about something or we want to hear from you. And so, don’t be shy this is the time to use your local economic development and Chamber resources.

Kim: Correct.

Greg: Yeah Kim what do you have for that too? I know I want to talk. I mean as I’ve been around the country or state. What do you have recommendations with that I mean outside of local too you know just trying to get people things to think about?

Kim: Economic development organizations can look like a lot of different things, they can be a private organization, they can be within a municipality, they can also be a regional organization or for instance with our Denver Metro Chamber we also have the Metro Denver EDC and they’re part of under the same umbrella if you will. So, they can look like different organizations but they’re all working together, they all work very closely with their chambers of commerce. The whole goal for what we do is making certain that our businesses are successful that they’re growing and building and that they are creating jobs and that’s at the end of the day we want everybody creating jobs. So, we are here to support the businesses and what they do every day. So, reach out to them. You know the phone is off the hook and it’s okay that’s what we are here for.

Greg: Yeah Diane one of the things we started with at the beginning of the call, I don’t know if you have any advice for between. We have this kind of zero to four-week mentality right of like people getting ready and so you kind of heard us talking about getting loans and getting information. Now we’re kind of in everybody is in information gathering because new bills are being written, counties are doing this. I think thank you very much both of you because that’s the point that we’re just next week we’re going to have I know a lot more information and I’m going to Diane you’re going to have more information coming out by a webinar. So, I don’t know what you have and if there’s advice because Kim and are being asked like you know one zero four weeks and one month and then how do we- you know you told you heard us say things like planning for the comeback. What are your thoughts on that? Just put you on the spot there Diane.

Diane: [Laughter] Okay I’m used to it from you Greg honestly, I think at this point that’s probably the biggest angst for any business owner that I’m talking to is we just don’t know how long this is going to last. And I think that is what’s weighing on the minds of everyone whether you’re an employee or a business owner. I do think it’s important at this point to maintain communications with your customer base that’s what I’ve been telling everyone. It’s like first of all get a hold of your banker, get a hold of your utilities or your landlord if there are bills you cannot pay right now today most of them are willing to work with you and extend payments. But then the second thing on your list is to maintain some communication with your customer base. And if there’s an option- I’m seeing so many creative options in terms of businesses adapting practices right now today that they may be able to actually incorporate in their overall business model going forward. And a case in point is the Pallet, our downtown you know painting studio and Claire is putting together kits for kids. So, for the you know we all know the kids are going to be out of school for the next three weeks. She posted it on Facebook that “I’ve got kids ready. I’ve got the canvas, the paints, the brushes, 15 bucks apiece, pre-order”. And she opened it at 2 and by 2:20 all those kits sold out. So, that was a case of realizing what your basic realizing what your customers need right now and trying to respond to it. And if there’s not a creative way that you can do that like Claire at least just communicating with them, letting them know what’s going on with you so that when you do come back through on the other side of this you still have those customers.

Greg: I completely agree with that and I’ve been seeing those stories to like you know the local sculpt cycle here in downtown Grand Junction indoor cycling. They have you know allowed you as a member to take a spin bike home and have to continue that workouts at home and they’re really trying to engage keep their membership you know dollars coming in and they’re doing really great things you know. I know you know wineries are talking to other maybe it’s things like you know how do we get people to come out even though there’s no tasting but to buy a bottle of wine maybe it’s picking up that pottery kit or something like that. So, we’re finding these really innovative ways that people are trying to keep revenue going you know and I know downtowns are doing special things like, if you go and  have to take out at a restaurant show us your you know your receipt and we’ll give you 25% off of a bottle of wine or whatever is available.

So really, I think it’s these business owners that are starting to talk to each other and come together and that’s what we’re starting to see. So, you know I believe that social distancing you know doesn’t mean you know we have to stay away from each other, right it’s a new way of how we engage, right. I think Kim and I talked about that that you know this is always a joke “it’s like an introverts dream” right now that they can be like okay this is my world you know I can be on chat and I can be on you know some video. But I think social distancing is a way that we can actually how do we come together without being next to each other right. And so, we’re going to learn new things and I think we’re really going to have to support- one of these I do want to talk about future is a list of all these examples Diane that we’re starting to see it these kinds of businesses. Again, as a business owner you get kind of so tense and so looking at you know I’m looking at cash flow statements and we’re looking at loans. You forget about how to be creative with these things. So, I think if we start to show some of those ideas along with all the Covid resources, it’ll help people brainstorm and be like, “Oh I know someone in my community that does this or does that or can do hand sanitizer”, or you know I think that’s what we’re trying to do.

At Chambers have always been so wonderful and you do such a great job I’m glad you’re having that big call with everybody because you pull people together and be like, “Hey, let me introduce you to somebody you guys should talk and then they can figure it out.” So, I think my hope is at the outside of this that we become a more ingrained in closer community, I think that’s really what we’re going to have. I mean I’m already seeing neighbors home coming out people are like standing across the street like waving at you like “I can’t come over there but my name is Bob, I love to…” “You know what’s your name again because we come home, we just go in our garages, go to our backyards.” So, I think people are going to start like wanting some human contact without you know six feet away or ten feet away or whatever our rules are so

So, I want to know so Libby are you still on? Do you want to make an announcement about something happening and an idea of what’s going on downtown?

Libby: Yeah Libby Olson principal of Growl Agency. I have been chatting with Brandon Stam who’s the executive director of Downtown Grand Junction and he just sent over an email letting me know that something that’s coming next week. We are going to be offering if people spend $25 downtown, the downtown Grand Junction will send them a ten dollar downtown Grand Junction gift card. So, that’s going to be coming next week, so check out the downtown Grand Junction social channels and websites. We’ll have a place for you to be able to upload your receipt and then a downtown gift card will get mailed to you so to try and encourage some of that spending downtown.

Greg: So, can you just quickly and I want to hold work I want to make sure we don’t go over people’s time but I want to- can you talk about maybe a recommendation if you are in another community outside of Western Slope like the DDA what that is the bid or you know again you can work with your local Chamber on this but maybe if you look at your community like what is that maybe they can look for in their own community?

Libby: So, this is really more around the Business Improvement Districts. It’s an entity that really supports bringing in visitors to the downtown space, so that’s really- so it’s really you know what are the resources available? Are there support mechanisms through your city through your community that can offer some of these incentives to help keep businesses open as well outside of just the tax incentives and things that our government can provide? Are there other entities that that can help out with some of these types of incentives to keep it going?

Greg: Thank You Libby for that because I don’t know if Diane or Kim you any other words about that or anything you’re seeing. Thank you because I think those are the list of resources. We’re going to have to figure out how to capture not only the all these big-big statewide let’s all that local on-the-ground type of items and maybe we’ll have another conversation and we’ll start to think about how to put a resource guide out for that too. But I don’t know Diane any comments on that?

Diane: I would just say if you are not part of the Business Improvement District or you’re not part of a Downtown Development Authority or you don’t have an organizing body, if you are not currently offering some sort of a gift certificate or gift cards start doing that now. I’m getting actually members of the public reaching out to me and saying, “I want to help my favorite business or I want to help the community and the business community somehow.” And if you’ve got that mechanism for them that’s a way to get money in the door now when you need it.

Greg: We are seeing that too. We’re getting requests for that like, “Can you help us with online ordering on our website, a mobile presence, something quick I can get up, how do I pay for it? So, we’re turning on some of the e-commerce they can start seeing some cash flow coming in you know for those. So, I think you’re again this is going to make it that kind of a fishing community in the future for that.

Anything Kim you want to add?

Kim: So, it doesn’t just happen now but I request that it happens even when we come out of the recovery and that we should always be supporting local. When we keep those economic development dollars – when we keep all those dollars into our community, the more robust our community is and we’re supporting our neighbors, we’re supporting our friends and our family and their families. And so as often as you can spend local. The more local dollars the better.

Greg: Yes, I agree with that. We’re seeing a lot of shop local and I saw it on your sign Diane so Blinky or big-big letters as I drove by so shop local. And more than ever I think you know I think these ones and you know and can reach out if there’s something you want them to see or ask as these local businesses you know if there’s something. I mean everybody’s willing to work out. Maybe that’s something that you know and we don’t need to be giving bad reviews or something we need to be helping them saying, “Hey, can you guys make it like this or can I get four stakes and eight pack of burgers to bring home?” And I bet most businesses are going to be like, “Yeah bet we’ll figure that out for you.” So, be willing to work with these entities as we continue to work together.

Kim: Greg one more thing that I wanted to add with the importance of shopping local is it’s not just supporting those local businesses but when you think about those business owners, they are part of your community. And the more that we can support in our community they will in turn put money back in. They support other things so we have a larger donation pile. Everybody starts working in this we support each other and so it’s not just the products and goods and services but it’s also supporting your neighbor.

Greg: Yep I appreciate it that is totally true and I think we’re looking at like making a conscious effort to you know have a meal out or you know how can we do that I think we’re going to see more people do that.

Hey Diane, I know you’re going to have a webinar next week coming in and so I just want to give you a second to just talk about that and then we’re about to close out here. I appreciate everybody’s time, so I just want to say you know you have something coming up next week do you kind of want to talk about that quickly?

Diane: Right just you know just very quickly we are going to be doing something similar to this next Wednesday morning 9:00 AM it’s open to anyone who wants to login and the topic is going to be business continuity. So, it’s going to be talking about what you need to do internally, again to be prepared for keeping going as long as things are the way they are, making sure your data secure, making sure your supply lines are in effect those sorts of things. So, it’ll be about a half an hour. You can go to the Grand Junction website and sign up and we’re hoping that that’s something that will help anyone. You don’t have to be in the Grand Junction area, these will be principals any business can use.

Greg: That’s great information and everybody will promote that out also. We’re going to be hosting this- I’m not sure I’ll call it a radio- we’re going to call it the kind of Growl Connex Radio Show. We’re just going to have one of those kind of boom mics that come down maybe we’ll you know maybe I’ll be fake all the fake one just so it looks like I’m talking into something. But I think we want to get this information out. I will always invite you both onto it to say if there’s a few minutes of information or you’ll share information with me. Again, I want to keep positive and help everybody get connected to each other you know maybe we’ll get banks on and talk about finance. It’s kind of scary time for people that never had to go out and ask for those kinds of things. So, I really appreciate both of you being on. We’ll pull this together as a recording with some links and information and make sure we get it out to both of you to share with your network. And again, I appreciate the people that are on the call that dialed in. Again, if you have any questions you can reach out to me, of course Diane and Kim and we’ll do everything we can to try to connect you to the right people. With that I wish you both a wonderful weekend and everybody that called in and have a very happy Friday.