EV cities host conference on pandemic recovery The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

EV cities host conference on pandemic recovery

EV cities host conference on pandemic recovery

By Alexis Garibay
Tribune Contributor

Small businesses in the East Valley are gaining more access to support and resources as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be an economic drain but local government needs to pay more attention to businesses in under-served communities.

That was the message in a two-day conference hosted by Mesa, Queen Creek and Gilbert, which received a grant from the National League of Cities’ First-Tier Suburbs Council to hold the virtual Small Business Economic Resiliency Conference.

The conference focused on identifying new strategies and practices for supporting small businesses, developing resiliency and promoting equity and inclusion in small-business recovery.

Theory Into Practice Strategies, an economic development consulting firm, said there was a reason the three East Valley communities was selected to host the event.

“They demonstrated a clear track record of collaboration as well as the topic they wanted to focus in on was small business and economic resiliency,” said Jeff Marcell, TIP Strategies senior partner.

TIP Strategies wanted to show small-business owners the resources that are becoming available to ensure their success as they navigate the challenges created by the pandemic.

GoDaddy, a service that helps businesses build their online platform, explained its Venture Forward program, which monitor the impact of entrepreneurs and their ventures on the economy.

“We measure these ventures through two different lenses. The first one is how many of them are there per 100 people in a ZIP code, county or city region, and the second is how active are the ventures across a number of metrics,” said Jeremy Hartman, vice president of Venture Forward.

Empower is another GoDaddy program that provides entrepreneurs in underserved communities with as training, tools and networking.

“We are very intentional that we are serving a specific need in helping those whose needs aren’t being met by current resources,” said Stacy Cline, Empower’s director corporate social responsibility and sustainability. 

In Arizona, roughly 550,000 small businesses with fewer than 500 employees each are responsible for providing 44.5 percent of all private sector jobs, according to the Arizona Commerce Authority.

“Something else we thought was very interesting was that 27 percent of the $21 billion that Arizona exports is from your small businesses,” said Jenn Todd-Goynes, a consultant for TIP Strategies.

These establishments provide the necessary building blocks to a stable economy, she said, and in the pandemic, they need help more than ever.

Black- and Latinx-owned businesses received less support, according to Todd-Goynes.

“Currently we’ve been looking a lot at racial equity, entrepreneurship and at the number of Black- owned businesses that are closing right now because of a lack in access to capital,” said Jenn Steinfeld, director of entrepreneurship and economic development.

Assistance programs need to start “transitioning from focusing your economic program and your support, relief and recovery tools from being open to all businesses to specifically targeting under-resourced business owners and population,” said Todd-Goynes.

The second day of the conference centered around businesses within Mesa, Queen Creek and Gilbert that have first-hand experience of the impact of COVID-19.

Adam Small, founder of Urbix Resources in Mesa, explained the changes that were made in his business in order to break through the barriers of the pandemic.

“Knowing that we’re going to hit a certain revenue goal 12 to 18 months from now, now that’s pushed back 6 to 12 months; that affects our ability to pay payroll,” said Small. His company manufacturers graphite, graphene and energy storage products.

Small said the City of Mesa helped Urbiz find a suitable location and that it has showed continuous support throughout the process.

“Having Mesa there to kind of hold our hand and not necessarily judge us or be skeptical of our ability to run a business, but understand that we are very good at what we do. We’re not good at this stuff, which is help us get our building up and running,” said Small.

The city is continuously scouting for innovative ideas that will further help the small business community when the pandemic subsides. ′

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