Retail in Sanford is just one of the industries taking a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UPDATE: After The Rant’s April edition went to print, Caterpillar — one of the city’s largest employers — announced it was suspending operations until at least April 20. The announcement provides another blow to the city’s economy.

Original story

Lee County, up until the arrival of COVID-19, had been seeing an influx in new businesses such as restaurants, shops, breweries and more, and the pandemic has been a gut-punch to those who had been enjoying the recent economic boom. Simply put, while there’s never a good time for a pandemic, coronavirus definitely picked a bad one locally.

For those small businesses who are concerned about the sudden change in the landscape when it comes to reaching customers and getting out orders, the Sanford Chamber of Commerce has been working on solutions to alleviate some of the tension. Meg Moss, the Chamber’s director, said a tool kit with information on topics ranging from working at home to Small Business Administration loans is now available at the Sanford Area Growth Alliance’s website (growsanfordnc.com).

Click above for our April 2020 digital edition

“We put together a list of our restaurants and the specials they created for this takeout period and hours that were modified and we posted it on Facebook to get people realizing that local eateries are getting creative — from delivery and these special menus,” Moss said. “We also feel that the tool kit we have created for these local businesses will help guide them in the unknown future ahead of all of us.”

Moss said the Chamber is also encouraging small businesses to call their local banker to check on loans, to keep records of financial transactions during this period of the virus, and notify the Chamber of Commerce how they’re weathering the storm.

But officials are also frank that the pandemic will hurt a local economy that’s made great strides in recent years.

“No question we’ll be hurt by this virus, so it is vital that we continue to support our local businesses in this time of particular need,” said Bob Joyce, director of economic development for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance.

Joyce also noted examples of businesses “getting creative” in order to stay afloat, citing as an example Harris and Company Insurance doing review meetings via teleconferencing, and with quite a bit of success.

That said, Joyce expressed optimism about the pandemic’s aftermath from an economic perspective, thanks in no small part to the work SAGA and others have been doing in the last several years – as well as the work being done at all levels of government.

“While we are working on a lot of this as we go, we have done much in reaction to this evolving crisis,” he said. “Relying on advice and guidance from county, state, and federal government entities, we have been able to direct our small business community a path forward in these dark days.”

— by Charles Petty