Delta economic recovery a work in progress

Businesses in Delta are seeing more shoppers as the county continues to open for business.

Multiple changes in the COVID-19 public health orders has made the Delta economic recovery challenging according to Elyse Casselberry, Delta County community and economic development director.

While most businesses are slowly recovering and re-opening, Casselberry said there are still a number of businesses waiting for government permission.

“Nobody is at full capacity at this time,” Casselberry said. “Our business recovery effort has really been focused on helping people with navigating those restrictions and how that applies to their business.”

With so much change and uncertainty, local businesses in both Montrose and Delta are continuing to rely on each other for information. Currently they are participating in a Connectors and Collaborators weekly call, which focuses on sharing information. Casselberry said one local restaurant, which had been struggling with its supply chain, found creative answers from other business owners.

Early on in the economic recovery the focus was on untangling the web of federal assistance funds made available through the Payroll Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the CARES Act.

“Since then, our focus has been on making sure businesses know that there are additional resources available through the Delta County loan fund or the Montrose County loan fund if they are located in Montrose,” Casselberry said.

More recently, the USDA is offering loans through the CARES Act as well as the local soil conservation district in Delta County has recovery money to offer. Casselberry said the trick for recovering businesses is learning how to stack the different types of loans for the most benefit.

“We are winding down in terms of the intensity and frequency of meetings. Most of our businesses seem to be shifting out of ‘what do I do mode’ into ‘this is what I am doing.’ They’re just trying to get things up and going with the new normal,” she said.

With the change in emphasis, the weekly Connectors and Collaborators phone call will move to once a month. The call will still provide businesses with sharing opportunities; however, Casselberry said most businesses are spending more time re-opening and running their businesses at this time.

As for the Delta County loan, Casselberry said she is waiting for updated numbers from Region 10. To her recollection, she said there have been around 16 applications with 12 approvals, four not approved and one was incomplete.

“We have not seen a lot of new applications at this time. So, we’ve been reaching out to the community to see what the need and demand is. I think there’s a couple of things happening. For one thing people received their federal funds, so they’re seeing how best to utilize those before they stack anything else on top of that.”

According to Casselberry, most businesses are sourcing through everything to see what their financial situation is, while some are hesitant to take on another loan until they have a better sense of how things are going in the future.

The Support Delta County campaign continues to drive home the need for the community to support local businesses during the COVID-19 recovery and beyond.

“There’s never been a more important time than now to shop local and spend your money locally. We’ve put together some branding and marketing materials around the idea of supporting your local businesses and supporting the idea of safer-at-home, stick to your local community as much as possible,” said Casselberry who is working closely with the chambers of commerce, local municipalities in the county.

“I think we’re seeing signs that people are being very supportive of local businesses. I’ve heard anecdotally stories from some of our businesses that they are actually very busy right now as people are looking to get their needs met regionally and locally, instead of outside the area.”

Casselberry echoed the optimism of economist Nathan Perry, Colorado Mesa University, on the future of Delta County recovery.

“I am also very optimistic about our recovery. I think if you just look at the hard data, we did not have as high of a percentage of unemployment claims to date out of Delta County so at the state wide level, I think that is a positive thing ... we seem to be a touch bit better off than others,” she said, adding that the drop in sales taxes has not been as drastic as first projected.

In the broader picture, Casselberry said that Delta County has experienced the “sudden shock in the economy” before. Because they’ve been there before, businesses are learning to plan for economic downturns.

“They have built-in resilience because of past experiences and because of that, the community countywide has worked together to invest into setting up the resources that are available to our business community,” said Casselberry. “This puts us in a position to rally resources quicker because we’ve already been doing it.”

In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty for local businesses and the community, Casselberry and others are trying to turn sinking sand into a firm foundation for the county’s ongoing economic recovery.

“We’re just asking our residents to really take to heart supporting our local businesses and also to remember that for a lot of our businesses, they’re being put in a very difficult position ... they’re seeing cost increase in their supply chains, they’re under a lot of stress, so please exercise some kindness and patience and understanding toward our business community so they can figure out how to adapt,” Casselberry said.

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