Partnership hopes to help Boyle businesses get financial help from feds

 

City and county government organizations are joining forces to help local businesses and industries weather the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. And they’re working on ways to help the economy rebound after the mandatory shut-downs are over.

During a Heart of Danville video meeting Thursday morning, Jody Lassiter, president and CEO of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership told the group that the EDP, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Heart of Danville, Perryville Main Street Program and the Boyle County Chamber of Commerce are partnering on the initiative.

The groups usually work to promote industry, business growth, tourism and community involvement. During the “evolving crisis,” Lassiter said he was proud of all the members of the partnership team, who are participating in webinars and conference calls, “trying to keep informed about what is happening with the economic injury disaster loans through the SBA (Small Business Association). And now, we’re trying to get a good handle on the new federal stimulus package.”

“I can’t get my head around it. … A $2 trillion stimulus package in total, particularly how the process is going to occur to get the funds, where it is needed, when it is needed.”

Lassiter said, “We’ve been emphasizing — let’s try our dead level best to keep as many of our industries open under the current exemptions, and our businesses under the current exemptions to the governor’s executive order, as possible so that people can continue to have their jobs and have that employment once we bounce out of this.”

Part of the federal stimulus package is a very large coronavirus relief fund, Lassiter explained, “that will flow in grant form to each city and ultimately to local governments.” It’s intended to help their communities emerge from the pandemic hit.

“Entrepreneurships have been talked about as one of the things that needs to be emphasized…” Lassiter said. “I never would have prescribed this to get there, but if there’s going to be … actually billions of dollars available divided among the 50 states and territories, then certainly Danville could potentially tap into that, not only for local relief funds” for downtown merchants and other businesses, but also for Centre College’s new project that is turning the third floor of the Hub building into a center for entrepreneurship and education.

“It could be any number of things. We’ve just got to stay on top of it,” Lassiter said.

Ellen Goldey, vice president for academic affairs and dean at Centre said the college is still working on developing the program. The center’s newly appointed directors “are very aware of the opportunities of entrepreneurship to really help in the recovery process for small and even larger businesses,” she said. “They’re pretty excited to help Danville and help Centre get back into full gear and maybe take it to a new level, and maybe use this funding as an opportunity to do that.”

Lassiter said the EDP is closely monitoring the economic injury disaster loan programs, which can be a daunting task. “I know there’s always some hesitation … to apply for federal funds. It can look intimidating. But, I think the partnership team is prepared, as we’ve already offered to do, to help with applying for those funds.”

Board member Chris White said the amount of information concerning the disaster loans and incentive announcements are long and complicated. He said most small business owners could become discouraged trying to dig through pages of information on how to login and apply; they might not end up trying to get the assistance they need.

“Just posting, ‘We’re here to help,’ probably won’t be good enough,” White said. So he suggested the partnering agencies set up individual meetings “one-on-one” to help the business owners get through the process more easily.

Lassiter compared the current economic situation to the financial crisis in 2008 combined with the 911 tragedy. “I’ve never encountered anything like this in my 51 years, much less in my professional work.”