By Todd Shimkus
It seems kind of ominous now. But on Friday, March 13, the leaders of the Saratoga County Economic Development Corp., Discover Saratoga, the Saratoga City Center, Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, the Downtown Business Association and the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce all met at Wheatfield’s, in downtown Saratoga Springs.
It was clear on that Friday that the world was about to change. Gov. Cuomo was starting to shut things down to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The six of us gathered at this meeting decided that from this point forward that we would work collaboratively to do whatever it took to protect Saratoga County’s economy and to help local employers through the crisis.
Since that time, we’ve communicated relentlessly among ourselves and with everyone in our database. We decided that it didn’t matter if an employer was a member, an investor, or not. We were going to help every business and nonprofit in Saratoga County. We would help as many organizations as we could and hope than when times were better that they’d help us too.
While I could recite an exceedingly long list of actions we’ve taken together to help hundreds if not thousands of people and organizations in the last 60-plus days, we’re already on to what’s next.
What’s next is developing and implementing an economic recovery plan for Saratoga County.
So what does this look like?
It starts with all of us continuing to collaborate. We have to deploy the resources and talent we have to get so much done and this requires coordination and teamwork. We believe focusing our efforts on helping Saratoga County’s economy to recover will help the surrounding region to recover as well.
PPE Supplies. In March, we reached out to members and asked them to donate PPE to our first responders, healthcare workers, and Saratoga Hospital. We worked with local firms to adapt their operations to manufacture PPEs locally as demand grew. Now, we need to continue to expand this production and to help ALL of our local employers to secure PPEs for their employees so that they can return safely to work.
As part of this effort, our six organizations are already securing donations of money and PPE supplies to create small business recovery kits. Small, locally owned businesses forced to close in March will benefit greatly from this effort. We already have tremendous support for this action from Ball Beverage Packaging, Death Wish Coffee, Momentive and Yankee Distillery.
Uniform Standards for Cleaning. We’re researching and creating cleaning protocols with restaurants, hotels, retailers, etc. We’re considering virtual training on these protocols to help employers as they bring back their employees. We will be inviting local businesses to pledge to abide by these protocols as part of an effort to have a plan for the reopening of Saratoga County’s economy. Gov. Cuomo has said employers must have a plan to reopen. Rather than every individual business doing this, we’re working together to create a healthy Saratoga plan of action.
Market Research. It’s one thing to be reopened. But will all consumers, customers, and visitors feel comfortable coming back? What will it take for people to feel comfortable coming back? These questions will be researched as we partner with Mind Genomics, a Saratoga Springs-based firm, that does extraordinary market and consumer analyses for fortune 500 companies around the world. They stepped forward and volunteered to work with us to help us understand what will make people feel safe coming back to Saratoga County, our local businesses and our attractions.
The fact that Saratoga County is one of the healthiest places to live and work is also a feature that should help us. We expect to have opportunities for supply chain expansion as well as corporate and talent recruitment as people look for healthier less dense places to live, work and operate a business.
That’s why we remain optimistic and hopeful. We really are stronger together.
By Todd Shimkus