Economic and Social Sustainability Planning
"Just as we focus on keeping our community members safe from the threat of COVID-19 and ensuring we are 'flattening the curve' to make sure our capacity to keep people safe is the highest, we are at the same time working to keep our economy and our community's social fabric strong throughout and beyond the crisis." - Mayor Michael R. Brown
Mayor Brown, the Grand Forks City Council, and partners from around the community have already begun listening sessions (below) and strategic coordination with federal, state and regional partners to develop a comprehensive and ongoing action plan to keep Grand Forks' small businesses, nonprofits, and service organizations in a position to maintain their roles and capacity.
Strategies, action steps and programs will be added here as they become available.
City Hosting Series of Business Listening Sessions
While there are many unknowns in this time of rapid change, local leaders know that area businesses and their employees are facing unprecedented challenges. The City of Grand Forks and local economic partners will hold a series of listening sessions to gather information from the business community on what those challenges are and to hear your ideas for solutions and needed support. We will share these ideas with our state and federal partners, as they have requested, to guide them as they develop and package resources to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. And with your help, we’ll shape our local approach to economic recovery.
Upcoming Listening Session:
Wednesday, April 1st, 3pm
Hospitality, Food/Beverage, Retail
Panelists will include:
Bret Weber, Grand Forks City Council and Grand Forks Growth Fund Chairman
Jonathan Holth, business owner and Growth Fund Committee Vice Chairman
Blue Weber, Downtown Development Association Director
Dustin Hillebrand, Job Service Grand Forks Manager
We will have Chamber, City and EDC staff on deck, as well as Cortnee Jensen from the North Dakota Dept. of Commerce and Nicole Evans from the Small Business Development Center. Mayor Michael Brown and City Council President Dana Sande will join as their schedules permit.
Past Listening Sessions:
Monday (3/23): Food , including grocers, restaurants, bars, similar establishments
- Participants peaked at about 115
- Info on unemployment benefits was requested and provided in real time
- Grand Forks Senior Center Director Colette Iseminger offered to partner with local restaurants to purchase take-out meals for seniors. This is occurring now.
- Would the City consider waiving/reducing garbage and recycling fees?
- Can we allow for temporary off-sale/delivery of alcohol? This is a customer request and would help use up perishable stock. Fargo has done this.
- Margins are tight in this industry. More debt, even at 0%, may not be feasible.
- Keep promoting “Shop Local”
- Participants expressed gratitude for this forum
Tuesday (3/24): Other Retail and services
- Participants peaked at about 112
- Unemployment benefit info shared in real time, also temporary job opportunities
- This slow time is a good time to make interior repairs/refresh
- Keep promoting “Shop Local” and add that NOT shopping online frees up the shipping and supply chain for essential items; buy only what you need, don’t hoard
- Can the City refund or discount next year’s license fees if a business is forced to close?
- Would the City consider waiving/reducing garbage and recycling fees?
- Would the City consider property tax relief?
- Taking on more debt, even no-interest loans, is difficult for small business
- BND released student loan relief info; link provided
- Consider providing a daily email from the Chamber or other credible source to provide up-to-date info and FAQs
- Lots of thanks for leadership and providing listening sessions
Wednesday (3/25, 3pm): Manufacturing
- Participants peaked at about 100
- Council President Dana Sande joined to listen and identify ways to support business and citizens
- Employee stress is a real issue (money, health, cabin fever); corporate concerns about maintaining supply chain and sales
- Shop local, save supply chain
- Advice on how to deal with high inventory with cancellations? Be diligent in marketing – this is going to end.
- Shelter in place concerns: info shared on defining “essential infrastructure” business employees; consider your firm’s role in the supply chain. Dept of Commerce recommends making your case to Gov. Burgum now if you think your firm should be considered critical/essential, either on its own or as part of supply chain. Get your critical sector vendors or customers to recognize your firm as you request that designation .
- EDC is trying to connect furloughed staff with industries that are seeing increased demand (e.g., Simplot, Philadelphia Macaroni). Let EDC know if you’re hiring.
- Need to balance health issues with business needs in critical industries
Thursday (3/26, 3pm): Professional Services / Developers
- Professional services staff can often work remotely, but set-up in a hurry is challenging. Communication with employees is especially essential now. For construction related services, bidding is very time sensitive – construction season won’t wait.
- Updated info about unemployment insurance is available at JobService website.
- Altru noted the serious effect this situation will have on their bottom line. Federal and state level assistance is needed; they operate on thin margins. Supply levels are being monitored, following CDC guidelines to conserve and replenish stock; are sharing with partners (UND, Spectra). Altru is there for the community.
- It was noted that many small businesses are trying new options/pivoting now; be sure to check your insurance and make sure new activities are covered.
- Industry leaders are encouraged to work together and submit plans to mayor/governor. It’s a much stronger voice as representing an industry vs numerous individuals.
- Grand Forks and ND can learn as we go from the rest of the country; if we can see what’s coming and put together a plan before it hits, proactively, that can really help industries. Market confidence is huge.
Friday (3/27, 3pm): Non-Profit Organizations
- Housing Authority is operating even tho’ it’s closed to the public. They have the ability to immediately reduce rents based on a tenant’s reduced income. More resources are coming. Housing Authority will not evict anyone unless they are a threat to the safety of others, and are recommending the same to local landlords with tenants who receive housing assistance.
- The role of CANA (Community Agencies Networking Association) was outlined; they share a lot of information across the community.
- Northlands Rescue Mission is open.
- Staff from ND Association of Nonprofit Organizations summarized the CARES Act and benefits that may be available to nonprofits.
- Bremer Foundation is accepting loan and grant requests.
- Discussion about cancelled events and loss of revenue. Rescheduling events later to avoid conflicts may be challenging.
Grand Forks Economic Development Corporation
Grand Forks EDC has compiled comprehensive resources on financial resources for businesses.
The Chamber Grand Forks/East Grand Forks and The Grand Forks Herald
These organizations have partnered to provide up-to-date information on local business availability and operations. The Chamber also is a great resource for business assistance and for sharing resources and information.
Upcoming Chamber Event:
Thursday 3/26, 3pm - CRISIS MARKETING - STRATEGIES FOR LOCAL BUSINESS OWNERS hosted by Leighton Broadcasting
Registration to this FREE 45-minute webinar is limited. Please reserve your spot today by filling out the form here: https://radiomarketing.leightonbroadcasting.com/crisis-marketing-webinar
As an attendee, you will have the opportunity to ask questions or ask the experts for ideas about your business.
Job Service - Unemployment Assistance
Visit jobsnd.com for more information on unemployment or contact Dustin Hillebrand, Workforce Center Manager, 701-795-3700 for assistance.
Minnesota businesses - visit uimn.org, or Call 1-877-898-9090
North Dakota Small Business Development Centers
ND SBDC Resources Page - Contact SBDC for assistance in your business’s continuity during this pandemic.
SBDC Upcoming Webinars
In conjunction with the SBA, there will be two webinars hosted this week to give an overview of assistance available to small businesses through the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The webinar will discuss loan program details, eligibility, application requirements as well as where and how to submit a loan application. Both dates/times will offer identical content and be held from 2pm-3pm on their respective dates.
PLEASE NOTE THAT LIVE ATTENDANCE AT EACH IS CAPPED AT 100 PARTICIPANTS. Recordings of each will be made available online and on social media as soon as possible following the events. Please register in advance.
Thursday, March 26, 2-3pm
Friday, March 27, 2-3pm
Downtown Development Association
Contact Blue Weber, 701-757-4051, for information on resources for you and your business.
Under a declared emergency, the Mayor has certain powers that can be enacted to ensure continued operations.
To see a list of all of the Mayor's Emergency Orders and other City Updates regarding COVID-19
Governor Burgum and his team have taken the lead and put together exhaustive resources for you to find information. Locally, we rely heavily on their resources and recommend you utilize them for up-to-date information.
Not sure what information you’re looking for? Start here! Everything from health, business, travel, and K-12 school information can be found here.
This resource page provides information on financial resources, labor laws that are pertinent to the situation (PTO clarifications for example), insurance, tax, and workmen’s compensation benefits information.
The Greater North Dakota Chamber site has a comprehensive page of resources for finding State and Federal information, including press releases from Governor Burgum, State Agencies, and Federal Agencies.
In partnership with the Department of Commerce, the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce is hosting weekly business briefings on various topics.
Thursday 03/26/2020, 11am - Emergency Business Financing. Register as a non-member for viewing/log in information. Find the recording of this briefing afterwards here.
Find easy to understand federal updates at the Greater North Dakota Chamber Site here.