WAUKESHA — The coronavirus pandemic, shutdown and subsequent loss of revenue has been hard on many businesses, but there are organizations willing to help.
One such organization is the Waukesha County-based Center for Growth, which presented to the County Board Monday and works in partnership with the Waukesha County Business Alliance. The group works with hundreds of businesses and a dozen local municipalities.
Center for Growth President Tim Casey said his group has been helping local businesses navigate through the uncertainty by directing them to resources that may be available and helping them through the application process.
“One of the key things we’ve done throughout is to get the most accurate, timely information out to all those partners (as soon) as we could,” Casey said. Disaster loans, grant programs and other financial resources all serve as potential sources of relief for those able to actually access them.
“I think we’ve probably fared about as well as you can,” Casey said of Waukesha County’s weathering of the economic storm.
He said having manufacturers and construction projects that were able to continue operating helped blunt the blow to the county. “But there were other sectors that got hit very hard by the shutdown,” he said, like the hospitality and food sectors. “Overall, I think we’ve done as well as, or slightly better than the state of Wisconsin.”
Casey said there are serious concerns over what might happen should there be another prolonged shutdown. He emphasized the economy was functioning well prior to the pandemic, so worry over structural or fundamental flaws in its ability to function probably aren’t warranted.
Some newfound flexibility may emerge on the other end of the pandemic though, Casey said. In particular, remote work is a more plausible concept after so many were required to switch to it and found, possibly to their surprise, that it was effective. Casey said the Center’s staff are physically in the office now on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and he thinks such schedule layouts may not be so unusual in the future. Though he said he expects office space will continue to be a sought after commodity, citing Landmark Credit Union in Brookfield as an example.
The Center’s staff roster has grown to keep up with the workload. They brought on Phil Ostroski as a parttime consultant at no additional cost thanks to the UW Small Business Development Center as well as bringing back an intern.
The Center is also offering a weekly reopening and recovery webinar series, as well as a stay safe to reopen webinar series and working with municipalities and local chambers of commerce to reach as many businesses as possible.
Casey said the Center for Growth has helped more than 300 businesses over the last four months. Those who still need help can visit www.waukeshagrowth.org or reach out to him or Lucy Waldhuetter directly at firstname.lastname@example.org g or lwaldhuetter@waukeshagrowth. org.
“We’ve got more capacity now to work with people because we recognize that the challenge is still there,” Casey said.