Downtown business leaders offer support, resources to small businesses

Updated: Mar. 25, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The coronavirus pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of American life.

Businesses have worked to adjust and find ways to stay open, but a week into operating in this new environment, some have found it’s just not feasible.

Throughout downtown Wilmington, you will few open signs, but plenty of doors plastered with signs reading ‘closed until further notice.’

Restaurants and shops have shifted to takeout and curbside delivery, but in some cases, it has not been enough to keep business open.

“We’ve talked to some restauranteurs who have told us frankly the sales volume is just not enough to justify staying open. Others though think that it’s important to continue to provide that service for customers and while they have certainly laid off staff and don’t have as many people working there right now, it is a way to keep some doors open," said Wilmington Downtown Inc. President and CEO Ed Wolverton.

Wolverton says WDI is working to ensure small businesses have resources they can use to re-open down the road.

Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Natalie English is also working to make sure businesses have access to those resources.

Both said in addition to federal stimulus packages, state packages are likely to be an option as well.

Wolverton says another great option for small businesses are loans from the NC Rural Center and the Golden Leaf Foundation.

He said these loans don’t accrue interest or require payments for six months.

Both English and Wolverton say this economic downturn is similar to dealing with the financial impacts of a hurricane. Wolverton said after Florence, many businesses found loans from the Small Business Administration had strings attached.

English says the Chamber isn’t the only group available for help, there are other free resources too.

“I’m also recommending people call their own legal consultants, accounting consultants, tax consultants and there are free resources. The SBTDC at UNC Wilmington has a team of counselors and it’s absolutely free for businesses to use to get counseling on how do you get the things that you need," she said.

WDI is keeping an updated list of downtown businesses that remain open and what services they are providing.

While many businesses have been forced to close their doors or layoff workers, other sectors are thriving

“While a lot of people are losing jobs based on the slowdown in our economy there are sectors of employment that are increasing. So ensuring that those people who are looking for work right now to go to NC Works, to check Indeed, check every source possible because there are industries hiring large numbers of people," English said.

If you are unemployed and would like to apply for benefits instructions on how to do so can be found here.

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