The following is a review of just some of the ways the CEP is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic:
Get. Gather. Go.
Hopefully, you saw our efforts around the marketing blitz to GET businesses informed on the Paycheck Protection Program, have them GATHER the necessary information, and GO apply. We ran radio, billboards, social media, cable, and print. The social media campaign reached more than 50,000 people. We created a dedicated website (GetGatherGo.com) in addition to our COVID-19 response page. The goal was to get as many local businesses as possible to apply. We hosted a webinar on filling out the application and filled it to our 100-seat capacity. The webinar was recorded, posted on our website, and was viewed more than 1,000 times. Finally, actively engaged with all of our lending institutions to make sure businesses had the latest tips on applying.
Local Loan Fund
The City and County have both approved funding for a local loan fund. The Paycheck Protection Program has moved much faster than anyone anticipated and is much more attractive to borrowers than originally promoted (the loan is forgivable and any portion not forgiven carries a 1% interest rate). This is a much better option for our businesses and we are encouraging those who were interested to pursue this instead. However, the CEP finalized the agreement with both the City and County so that we can activate this program should we need to in the coming days. As a note – the CEP is taking no fees or admin on this program.
While this is a difficult time for many, we have a significant number of businesses who are hiring. Our page of businesses who are currently hiring now includes approximately 40 businesses (https://ocalacep.com/about-ocala/job-posting/).
Economic Impact Survey
The CEP is partnering with the College of Central Florida and the Ocala/Marion County Tourism Development Council on an economic impact survey. The CEP is collecting the anonymous data and CF will be analyzing it. We hope to release the results in late April and then repeat the survey in six months.
We have been offering 4-6 webinars each week to provide assistance and resources to businesses on dealing with different aspects of the pandemic. We also created industry specific webinars for the Manufacturing sector and one for the Restaurant sector to provide a roundtable forum to discuss best practices. All of these webinars are free.
We are continuing to make calls to as many businesses in Marion County as possible to make them aware of resources. To date we have connected with approximately 2500 local businesses. Our call team is continuing to work through lists and will continue to focus on connecting with as many businesses as possible.
Virtual Town Hall
Though not specifically related to COVID-19, our response was. The School Board had narrowed its search to two candidates for Superintendent. The CEP offered to host a virtual Town Hall so the community could ask questions and hear directly from the two candidates. I am so incredibly proud of our team! They pulled this fairly complex event off in less than two days. We received 115 community questions which we were able to consolidate into 16 questions which were asked of each candidate. The town hall was streamed on Facebook Live, the school system’s YouTube channel, and on the Marion Education Channel. Between Facebook and YouTube, we had more than 4,500 views with approximately 300 watching the event live on these platforms.
We truly live in interesting times but at the CEP we are completely committed to working with our businesses to ensure they can not only survive this period but come out stronger.