City Notes: Whitehall leaders focusing on helping small businesses

Zach Woodruff
Guest columnist

As COVID-19 coronavirus cases surge in Ohio, businesses of all sizes in Whitehall continually are adapting to safely provide goods and services without compromising quality or the health of their customers and employees.

The city’s economic-development department always has strived to be an invaluable resource to our business community, and since the coronavirus pandemic began, we have been even more focused on helping our businesses connect to the resources they need.

Zach Woodruff is development director for Whitehall.

One sector of our business community that has done tremendous work in adapting to these times is our locally owned, diverse restaurants. Whether that has been transitioning to a carryout model, using drive-thru facilities or redesigning their dining spaces to allow customers to socially distance, our restaurants have implemented innovative, creative solutions to help keep their lights on.

And as our local restaurants adapt, the city has responded with more flexible policies and procedures.

For example, when 2 Tones Brewing Co. realized that more space was needed to keep the business viable as weather was warming up this past spring, its owners approached the city about repurposing a portion of their parking area to allow for outdoor seating. The new outdoor space would have better air flow, allow customers to socially distance and maintain the taproom’s overall seating capacity.

Although such temporary patio areas generally would fall outside of zoning-code provisions, our leaders recognized that unique times call for more flexibility where possible, especially when that flexibility helps our businesses maintain vital revenue streams.

If you are a local business owner with ideas for how to use your space creatively, please reach out to the city’s economic-development department to discuss options and potential accommodations.

In terms of relief programs, the city recently launched the Reboot Whitehall: CARES Act Small Business Relief Grants. On Oct. 20, Whitehall City Council approved the use of $100,000 of CARES Act funding to assist Whitehall businesses that have experienced revenue losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible businesses may apply for a one-time grant of up to $5,000 to be used for reimbursement of eligible expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, machinery or equipment payments, utility expenses, salaries, wages or compensation and expenses related to compliance with Responsible Restart Ohio to meet social-distancing requirements – but note that some restrictions apply. These funds must be spent before Dec. 30. For more information on these grants and for a full list of eligible expenses and restrictions, go to whitehallmeansbusiness.com.

Finally, the city is here to help local businesses navigate outside resources, including those resources that existed before the pandemic, such as U.S. Small Business Administration loans.

In February 2020, the economic-development team started the Whitehall Works Podcast, which features guests from throughout central Ohio who have a hand in economic development, whether in the form of affordable housing, workforce, transportation or otherwise.

In the latest episode of Whitehall Works, the economic-development team welcomed a special guest from the Ohio Statewide Development Corp. to discuss SBA loans. To listen in to this episode and to check out other episodes of the Whitehall Works Podcast, go to whitehallmeansbusiness.com.

Although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be uncertain, the city and its economic-development team continue to support our local businesses, and we encourage our community members to do the same.

It’s simple: When possible, please shop and eat locally, purchase gift cards from your favorite local stores and service providers, and continue to share your positive reviews of our local businesses online.

Zach Woodruff is development director for Whitehall.