By: Max Crampton- Thomas
The Tampa Bay region, like everywhere else, is feeling the deep impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with Invest:, Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce CEO Robin Miller reflects on the economic fallout from the pandemic, how the chamber is supporting local businesses and what role the community can play to help businesses through this unprecedented crisis.
What have you already seen in terms of economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic on the business community in the Tampa Bay region?
There has been unprecedented impact in nearly every sector; however, hospitality is at the top of those extremely impacted. When you look at this from the loss of jobs to the closure of hotels, this trickle effect impacts sales tax generated as well. For many years, we would have communities and people complain about visitors and tourists here. Now, the unfortunate reality is that this is what it looks like when we don’t have tourism in our communities.
How is your organization working to assist the business community in mitigating the challenges and impact felt from the COVID-19 pandemic?
We are working extremely hard to provide clear and concise information; assisting businesses in navigating and understanding the stimulus; and lastly, but more importantly, we have created a partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay and are providing food pantries once a week and access to produce.
Do you feel the business community is receiving enough state and federal support?
I think it is a good start; however, we are advocating strongly for sector-driven financial support that are not loans. The anxiety and stress of no business at all and keeping people employed is debilitating, and then the pure thought they will need to take out loans is overwhelming. This is a line item in a businesses budget that was not planned. They need access to grants and more of it. I think local governments can play a key role in this as well.
How can the community best assist the local businesses in this time of need?
Be patient with businesses as they now have a new normal to exist in. Once we start staggering the openings of our local communities and businesses, we all need to create a new plan to support them. We will all be on limited funds for months to come. I suggest that whenever we need something, let’s not immediately open an Amazon web window. Let’s instill a behavior that we immediately access our local options first. If you think you can get it on Amazon cheaper, tell your local business that. We need to band together in this support now more than ever.
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