The Greene County Economic Development Authority (EDA) held a special meeting last week to discuss how to help local businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

On May 5, the board discussed whether it wanted to modify its loan programs to offer microloans to businesses with different requirements. The board looked over surrounding counties’ EDA plans for businesses during the coronavirus crisis for comparison, as well.

Julia Roberts, vice chair, said she was concerned about the work involved with the microloans for the all-volunteer board, including the application verification and the upkeep of the payments.

“My first reaction is unless we have a third-party manager, we don’t want to get into this business as an EDA,” Roberts said.

By the end of the two-hour meeting, the board decided it would carve out $10,000 of the budget to support the plans underway by the economic development office and the Greene County Chamber of Commerce to assist businesses.

“In lieu of creating a COVID-19 specific loan fund, the EDA board voted at Tuesday’s meeting to set aside money to support the countywide ‘Relaunch Greene’ initiatives being developed by the Greene County Economic Development and Tourism Office in conjunction with the Greene County Chamber of Commerce,” said Michael Payne, EDA chair. “It was felt that this approach would provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of businesses given the EDA’s limited funds.”

Relaunch Greene is a partnership between the groups and the businesses to develop a way to stimulate the local economy once stay-at-home and non-essential business closure orders have been lifted by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Several things are in development as part of that effort, including increased e-commerce platforms and web presence for businesses in Greene County.

“Components of the plan include community celebrations and perhaps smaller events in the parking lots of businesses,” said Alan Yost, director of Greene County Economic Development and Tourism, to the EDA. “There’s a lot to be worked out with those individual events. But a key component is how we help businesses move to more of a virtual presence.”

Yost showed the EDA a mockup of the website that would list all businesses in categories, including address and contact information and an e-commerce account to sell items online or for those who don’t sell items, such as insurance or real estate agents, it would include a link to get a quote.

“This website will provide a virtual presence to all our businesses in Greene,” Yost said. “You do not need to be a chamber member and those that want to there will be a link to get added. I feel this is a great opportunity. Diana (Gamma) has been working hard on this.”

Yost said the only requirement to be listed on the site is that a business holds a valid business license through the county.

“Additional ongoing efforts also include continued support of the Chamber of Commerce’s discounted radio ad program and development of town hall-style meetings to make subject matter experts in various facets of economic disaster mitigation and recovery available to the community,” Payne said.

The next regular EDA meeting is scheduled for May 19 at 6:30 p.m. Visit https://bit.ly/2WKVp8b for the agenda to see whether it’ll be held in person or via Zoom online.

Editor, Greene County Record

Terry Beigie is the Editor of the Greene County Record in Stanardsville. She can be reached at tbeigie@greene-news.com or (434) 985-2315.

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