Peoria’s economy, while vulnerable amid COVID-19 related closures, can be resilient, if businesses and consumers work together. That’s the message from Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.
“We haven’t been at this for very long,” he said. “It feels like an eternity, though.”
Setti said the hospitality, tourism, and retail sectors are especially hurting right now. But nonprofits and social service agencies may also be in trouble.
Setti said along with changing their shopping and eating habits in times of social distancing, consumers may also be changing their contributions to charitable causes.
"You have the alternating pressure of more needs for your services and maybe less resources to provide them,” he said.
Efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have also caused many fundraising events to be canceled.
Even with creative strategies and governmental assistance, Setti said, it's likely not all businesses will make it through the pandemic.
Setti said it's unclear how long businesses like restaurants and bars can sustain curbside pick up orders. He said it's likely at least some will close their doors for good.
"Hopefully that doesn't happen,” he said. “If it does happen, those are opportunities for new businesses to open. I don't want to sound insensitive, in that regard. But businesses close in the best of circumstances, in the best of economic times. We’ll work to prevent that as much as we can, but it certainly can’t be foolproof.”
Setti said the pandemic has just compounded existing problems in the U.S. economy.
“Our consumer habits had already been changing, at least when it comes to shopping,” he said. “Online shopping has probably robbed some of our brick-and-mortar stores of having the sorts of reserves that would help them weather this particular storm.”
Policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels are doing all they can to support businesses during this time, Setti said, but it’s hard to find a solution that works for everyone.
“Problems that businesses are going to have are very individual in nature and these are often more off-the-shelf programs that are not easily customizable, but are broad in their impact,” he said.
Plus, he said, it’s going to take time to see the benefits of those financial supports.
Setti said it’s the job of organizations like the GPEDC, chambers of commerce, and the Bradley University Small Business Development Center to help connect businesses with the resources that will best serve them.
He said consumers, meanwhile, can still support local businesses by ordering from their website, grabbing take-out, or buying gift cards.
He said you can also support them without spending a dime, by leaving reviews and sharing their social media platforms.
“Any services you can procure locally is what’s best for the economy, in times of crisis and in good times, quite frankly,” he said.
Setti said despite current economic uncertainty, Peoria is a resilient community, noting the Whiskey City weathered Prohibition, as well as the departure of Caterpillar's headquarters.
“We’re still here to tell those stories,” he said.
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