It's no secret that business owners are struggling as the days and months of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic have changed how we live, work, learn, dine, shop and interact with each other.
Although we want our favorite businesses to reopen and operate safely and successfully, every business is unique and is being impacted in different ways that might be difficult to identify and understand.
That's why a team of community partners stepped up with a simple objective: to support Worthington businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic.
To put some structure behind the effort, the city of Worthington, the Worthington Partnership, Experience Worthington, the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and several other local business experts collaborated to form the Responsible Business Opening & Operations Team Worthington – ReBOOT Worthington.
Much like the pandemic itself, the team's approach to helping these businesses has been fluid to evolve with the ever-changing situation.
The ReBOOT team began by surveying small businesses to assess their needs and quickly learned that each of them has been impacted differently.
Some businesses did not have the needed inventory to reopen, whereas others were concerned about protecting the health of their employees. Some needed financial assistance, but others asked for flexibility on signage or temporary parking spaces for pickup orders.
The business needs varied, but a common theme emerged.
First and foremost, our businesses needed their employees and customers to feel safe coming back.
To help support the safety protocols and messages, the ReBOOT team facilitated window and entryway reminders for businesses and shared reopening information with the community through social media.
In addition, Worthington's health agency, Columbus Public Health, provided support from a Worthington-assigned sanitarian to work directly with businesses and make sure safety protocols were being followed.
As businesses began to feel more comfortable and doors began to reopen, one thing still was lacking: customers.
Supported by funding from Worthington City Council, the ReBOOT team launched a unified marketing campaign to let citizens and visitors know that our businesses safely had reopened the right way. One hundred feather flags sharing the messages "We're Open" and "Open to All" now line Worthington's commercial corridors, getting the word out and encouraging patrons to shop local.
In addition to the "We're Open" campaign, specific business information, including hours of operation and special offers, are being catalogued, updated daily and featured online at experienceworthington.com. Flexibility with signage, permitting, and parking arrangements have also helped businesses during this difficult time.
Most recently, the ReBOOT team received $50,000 in funding from Worthington City Council to provide cash grants to eligible small-business owners for expenses directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds were exhausted in days, further highlighting the continuing need many businesses are experiencing.
What can you do? Buy local. Support Worthington businesses. Help where you can and always remember to wear your mask to protect others.
You can learn much more about the ReBOOT Worthington initiative and how the city and community partners support and nurture business growth here in Worthington at worthington.org/1943/COVID-19-business-support.
David McCorkle serves as economic-development director for Worthington.