DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) – The Business Council of Alabama’s “ENGAGE Alabama” started today. The free virtual business conference is trying to help Alabama business owners with a variety of issues they are facing.
Today business owners were able to hear from metropolitan mayors around the state. These mayors shared how they have been responding to their businesses in their cities during COVID-19.
“The coronavirus has presented toughest of times, but I think it has also brought out the best character for all of our communities,” Mayor of Birmingham, Randall Woodfin, said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of life, especially the livelihood of Alabamians.
“The worst thing that you could have happened in your city is empty storefronts,” Mayor of Tuscaloosa, Walt Maddox, said. “Empty storefronts lead to blighted property, blighted property leads into a downturn within that neighborhood or within that business community.”
Huntsville mayor, Tommy Battle, said the city created solutions rather than problems.
“You had your retailers who were basically out of business and all of a sudden they learned how to market and do curbside service and stay in business that way,” Battle said.
Many cities in the state provided grants to their local businesses.
“The IGNITE Mobile program was designed to give grants to those businesses that really needed the help until the point and time when they can open up,” Mayor of Mobile, Sandy Stimpson, said.
Montgomery mayor, Steven Reed, said his city has been able to give out thousands of dollars in grants.
“About 85% have gone to minority, black owned, businesses,” Reed said. “We’ve seen that everywhere from restaurants to also barber shops and beauty salons and other businesses.”
Beyond just the small business, the city of Birmingham took it a step farther.
“Engage the hourly employee who was laid off as well,” Woodfin said. “Which is another component to the of the BHAM Strong campaign that was totally centered around creating a lane for those individuals who have been laid off, who may or may not have had access to unemployment insurance, to still feel that they had some way of providing for themselves.”
The city of Tuscaloosa lost 27,000 residents in March, after students were forced to return home due to the shutdown. To keep local businesses alive, the city invested $1MIL through the Restart Tuscaloosa program to help over 200 businesses. The highest being $10,000.
“That could help make a payroll, that could help make a utility payment, that could cover the rent for a month,” Maddox said. “And about 15 percent of that has gone to restaurants and bars who have been the most directly impacted by what’s happening.”
The ENGAGE Alabama event has a total of 50 speakers and over 12 session. Tomorrow morning at 9 A.M. Governor Kay Ivey will address the group.
To register or for more information about the BCA event click here.
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