According to the latest results of a longitudinal study from Northern Arizona University’s Economic Policy Institute, the Coconino County and Sedona Business Leaders Survey shows the top concerns now include: 1) Paying Bills/Cashflow Problems, along with 2) Lack of Tourists/Customers, 3) Low Consumer Confidence and 4) Keeping People Safe. The study shows the changing top hurdles faced by Coconino businesses over time from May to September 2020. Please visit https://in.nau.edu/economic-policy-institute/covid-19/ for the full results.
The most effective action for businesses right now is to turn their focus toward their local community Chambers of Commerce, associations and business networks, as these organizations are proving effective in helping businesses to address the top four business hurdles. Here are some examples as to why your business should look toward becoming members and partners with your local business networks.
When it comes to finding financial relief, the grant opportunities are slim and over-subscribed, but members of organizations are the first to hear about and then apply to grants that become available. The Flagstaff Downtown Business Alliance, Arizona Local First, the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, and staff from Economic Development departments in both the City of Flagstaff and Coconino County all have recently released small business grants, which were eagerly received and rapidly applied for. Knowing what is available often means being in the “loop” and your local business organizations are the “loop.”
While grants are helpful for some eligible businesses, they do not address deeper financial constraints, and that is where your local Small Business Development Center, the Coconino SBDC, hosted by the Coconino Community College, really excels. Free business consultations have helped hundreds of business owners improve their profitability, access new markets (like government contacts) and receive commercial capital. The Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECONA) is another organization helping businesses to connect to resources across Northern Arizona and expand their presence in regional markets.
A few other common business hurdles, including Consumer Confidence, a Lack of Tourists/Customers and Keeping People Safe, are being addressed by local governments. The resources, programs and marketing they produce can be boosts to local businesses, as these bigger hurdles take coordination and repetition to change consumer behavior.
Discover Flagstaff’s marketing programs, under the City of Flagstaff’s Economic Vitality Department, produce world-class marketing materials and locally-focused programs such as the “Flagstaff Local – My Actions Matter” campaign. Coconino County and the Health and Human Services Department regularly report COVID-19 related news and facts, as well provide multiple programs to help keep people informed and safe. These are a few examples of why your local organizations are your best advocates, sources of resources and partners in helping your business get through these challenging times.
Rather than waiting for federal programs to provide business support, it is time to get involved and partner with your local business networks. For help navigating or connecting with business networks or resources, feel free to contact me. FBN
By Chris Pasterz
Chris Pasterz is the economic development manager for Coconino County. He can be reached at email@example.com or 928-225-5650.