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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Mar. 26, 2020 2 weeks ago

'A different day for our businesses': Ormond Chamber of Commerce CEO outlines COVID-19 impacts

In this Q+A, Debbie Cotton discusses what businesses are facing, and how we can help.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

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These are four ways you can help keep the local business community afloat as it deals with the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, said Debbie Cotton, President and CEO of the Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce, which has a membership of almost 700 local businesses.

The chamber is hoping to launch a campaign on Monday, March 30, called #OBOpenForBusiness, Cotton said. With the uncertainties surrounding the economy, the campaign is meant to show the community how they can support local businesses. The chamber also has resources on its website for business owners, including information about loan programs and reemployment assistance. 

The Ormond Beach Observer recently spoke with Cotton about how COVID-19 is impacting businesses in our area, and here's what she had to say:

Q: What do you think will be the major long-term impact of COVID-19 in the business community?

A: I would say the slow down of the economy and possible layoff of workers — people are going to have to cut their expenses, and payroll sometimes is one of them if there’s a shortage of revenue coming in. Keeping their employees being able to work from what we understand is, of course, a priority for all businesses and they do the best they can. I think the majority of our businesses really look out after their employees, but at some point — hopefully this won’t go on very long — that’s what they have to look at.

Q: Could businesses have prepared for a situation like this?

A: I don’t think so. We prepare for disasters like hurricanes. We know when it’s coming. We know typically because of past experiences what the impacts have been. We also know what the recovery process is and how long the recovery process is going to take depending on the strength of the storm. This storm we have no way to predict.

Q: Do you think people have a renewed appreciation for the small business owners, the restaurants and others who work in the service sector?

A: In my opinion, they do. They’re seeing what they really do. I think a lot of times, people take that for granted and just know it’s always going to be there. But now they realize that people that run retail shops, the face-to-face people — this is impacting their daily lives.

Q: What role has the chamber taken on these days in helping local businesses?

A: Our role has always been to be the go-to resource for our members. We want to be the place they go to when they have business questions; anything related to business and commerce and economic prosperity. That’s always been our role but we’ve really taken that to new level. We compile the resources and then we go out to the members and see what of these resources can we assist with.

Q: What are some of the major concerns businesses have come to the chamber for help with?

A: So the major concern is really resources to help them keep going, which we have and a lot of that stems from the state and the federal level, but as it comes down we get that out to them. Just getting the message out there of what they can do on a limited staffing.

It’s a different day for our businesses and we’re all adjusting.

Q: What do you think is the most important thing for business owners to keep in mind as the COVID-19 pandemic develops?

A: We’re all in it together and we are going to come out of it, and when we do, the chamber as always is going to be there in the recovery efforts.

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