The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) has announced the formal halting of 2020 strategic goals. BRAC will reroot its priorities to better support the regional business community amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery period.
“Many businesses and organizations are having to pivot their businesses and services in response to coronavirus,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC. “It’s critical that BRAC focus on providing a new, focused role to business support and recovery. I’m incredibly proud of our team for their work to this point, and for rising to the challenge to help businesses and help the economy during this difficult period.”
BREC’s crisis-period plan is as follows:
· Business and worker recovery initiatives: Support business and worker recovery through the development of, advocacy for, and promotion of business and worker recovery initiatives at the local, state, and federal level
· Business and Industry Outreach: Assess the status of economic driver industries and assist with recovery issues through outreach via BRAC’s business retention and expansion program, while continuing business development for ongoing job creation projects
· Leading Economic Indicators: Develop and regularly distribute a dashboard of leading economic indicators to shed light on business activity within the metropolitan area and the relative degree of economic loss and recovery
· Crisis Communications: Aggregate and share trustworthy, reliable business recovery information to investors, stakeholders, and the general business community
· Investor Support: Assess and be a resource to support BRAC’s 1,500 investor businesses and organizations through direct outreach and connection to recovery programs
BRAC has also established the following new initiatives, in accordance with the recovery priorities:
BRAC has created a resource hub related to business guidance and support at brac.org/recovery. The page houses registration information for webinars on business recovery topics, relevant resource information for employers, employees, and those seeking community resources, a jobs database for displaced workers to find local opportunities, quick links to governmental guidance, BRAC research and analysis on policy developments, and news releases from BRAC and regional and state elected officials.
In direct response to business needs, BRAC is hosting free webinars on recovery topics most voiced by the business community. Currently scheduled webinars include:
- SBA Economic Industry Disaster Loan Program, March 27 at 1 p.m.
- Navigating the SBA 7(a) Process and the Latest Information on Economic Injury Disaster Loans, March 30 at 11 a.m.
- Positive Productivity in a Pandemic, April 3 at 11 a.m.
- How to Use SBA, Economic Incentives, and Non-Bank Lenders to Obtain Commercial Capital, April 6 at 10 a.m.
Business Impact Survey and Economic Indicators
BRAC deployed a business survey to assess the initial impact of COVID-19 on the regional business community. The survey is accessible at brac.org/recovery. As of March 24, responses indicate that 38% are not familiar with SBA recovery loan assistance programs and 43% are not familiar with disaster unemployment benefits that are available. 25% of businesses report not having the hardware or software to support remote work capabilities, and 62% of businesses expect their Q1/Q2 revenue or sales to be down significantly or to a major extent. As the pandemic unfolds, BRAC will continue to assess data and produce economic indicators to shed light on economic activity in the market. That analysis will be made available at brac.org/recovery.
BRAC launched the BR Works initiative to connect displaced workers with local opportunities. The shifting jobs landscape caused by COVID-19 has resulted in quick workforce changes. While some companies are forced to turn to layoffs and furloughs, some other industry sectors are needing to quickly ramp up hiring to meet increased demand. BRAC has deployed a form to HR professionals to assess open positions to create a jobs database of urgent need. Additionally, BRAC is working to facilitate communication between HR departments laying off and hiring in similar industry sectors in hopes of reducing candidate screening processes.
Direct Business Outreach
BRAC is directly contacting each of its 1,500 investor businesses to assess COVID-19’s impact on business operations and to provide useful information for recovery. Additionally, BRAC’s business retention and expansion program has doubled down on outreach to driver industry sectors to assess current and future economic impact for the Capital Region.
Daily COVID-19 Briefs
BRAC is sending daily briefs to its investor businesses with concise, relevant updates on facts and resources from local, state, and federal authorities. These briefs are intended to give investor businesses timely information through a regional lens, with a focus on practical takeaways for business. The information from these briefs is also widely shared via BRAC’s social media platforms. BRAC has provided media availability opportunities to comment on business programs, and is producing short videos on social media to explain various business and worker recovery programs.
BRAC team members are participating in special projects as needed. For example, staff is helping solicit businesses and industry for donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, sanitizer, gloves, and more for health care professionals, in collaboration with the leaders of the Baton Rouge Health District. In addition, staff is working with employers who are trying to shift their local manufacturing to make PPE or otherwise support the community’s recovery needs. BRAC is also supporting the Keep BR Serving initiative to promote patronage by businesses and individuals of local restaurants through delivery and take-out options.