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Alpena area officials form business task force to address COVID-19

Submitted by on March 25, 2020 – 12:36 amNo Comment


An effort is underway to provide localized support for the Alpena area business community as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold in Michigan.

With many new changes impacting business owners, especially the region’s small business owners and those directed to close by government mandate, the situation presents challenges in a rapidly changing landscape.

Late last week Alpena County Emergency Services Coordinator Mark Hall, and Alpena County Commissioner Robert Adrian, held a conference call with Mary Beth Stutzman, President & CEO of the Alpena Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, to brainstorm a solution to support the impending needs of the local business community.

Hall suggested that a small group of economic development representatives be formed to serve on a Task Force to help connect local business owners with available resources. The effort will work to serve those with critical needs throughout the shelter-in-place and quarantine phase, and during the rebuilding process in the future.

Hall said his main priority is tending to the public health crisis but he understands that our local business community also needs support during this time. He asked Stutzman and Adrian to work to bring this to fruition.

“From a professional perspective, as someone who is partially responsible for economic development activities in Northeast Michigan, if businesses don’t make it, we have fewer assets to leverage to bring people to the Alpena area. This means fewer jobs for residents, fewer shopping and activity options for residents and visitors, and reduced quality of life as a result of the reduction in economic diversity. It’s about the greater sum of the Alpena’s working parts. We all depend on each other. This is a time when we need to focus on our collective foundation, and make sure it is strong enough to absorb the after-shock of this impact,” said Stutzman.

She adds, “I am a small business owner myself. So I feel like I have one foot in each of two different worlds. I understand the economic and human health impact of this situation on Northeast Michigan’s bigger picture. And after being directed to shut down our family business operations, I also understand the hardship on a personal level for my family, our employees, and those we serve. Many of us are in this same boat. We have to stay calm, while diligently and assertively working together to triage our local economy and proactively prepare for the future.”

Stutzman reports that a number of things were already being implemented by the Alpena Area CVB for tourism-benefited businesses. After Hall’s request, the organization has shifted to include all businesses in the local area, regardless of type or size.

As the Task Force gets up and running, the group will work to expand on these items and create new ideas for the greater good of the Alpena Area. Activities that have been implemented this week include the creation of the “Alpena Area: COVID19 Business Resources” Facebook group page to provide local business owners a centralized location for the latest links and information to assistance programs, employee/employer resources and other pertinent business support information.

Work has begun to create a master list of business owner contact emails so the Task Force can communicate directly with business owners. The master list will ensure that confusion and redundancies are limited by having information come from a direct source, rather than receiving the same email from five different people. If you are a business owner or manager and would like to get added to this list please email your information to Kyla Schatz at kyla@visitalpena.com.

Stuzman is also sending out a weekly survey to the master list of business owner contacts to gauge and follow the up-to-date status of the local business climate, and determine what immediate needs can be supported by the Task Force.

Task Force members have been identified and will participate in a Zoom meeting this week. Updates will be shared as they become available.