Communities React to COVID-19 in Unique, Successful Ways
24 Aug 2020
Blog, Found Article, News
Everything seems to be changing since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and if you aren’t changing with the new times, you will fall behind. Maintaining relationships has become more difficult for individuals and businesses alike. The process for holding meetings and closing deals has done a complete 360. Below, we are sharing stories of how communities are working together, adapting to the newness of it all, and coming out on top of this crisis.
Shoreview, MN Company Reacts Quickly to COVID-19
Located in Shoreview, MN, PaR Systems has sought to understand employees and customers alike, while developing new COVID-19-related technologies and maintaining existing projects in an unprecedented business environment. “Due to many of our customers being designated as essential businesses, we had to implement remote work practices extremely quickly, which had been planned for ahead of time. We learned how to collaborate with our customers and with each other internally on the fly, allowing us to remain flexible and adjust as we move forward,” said Darragh Staunton, President and CEO. “It is a real tribute to our employees and vendors for choosing to develop creative ways to keep our customers going.”
As the crisis hit, PaR sought to use their manufacturing capabilities to help companies produce COVID-19-specific products like ventilators and respirators, all while learning to do so with new remote work practices. Beyond the COVID-19 efforts, PaR knew it had to focus on existing customers because at least 80% were deemed essential businesses. PaR has been successful in continuing to work on all existing customer projects since the crisis began.
Even before stay-at-home orders were put in place, PaR’s leadership put extensive time and thought into strategic planning and preparation early on for what the company saw as an imminent need to move to remote work staff. So, as travel restrictions and safe-distancing techniques were instituted, the company was able to seamlessly turn to remote techniques quickly. PaR is also the first automation company to install guided robots in their facilities. The robots are driven by individuals with remote access.
Beyond remote work practices like virtual meetings and robot usage, they have placed an emphasis on employee health. Robust facility screening procedures and safe-distancing practices were all implemented. “We are making a concerted effort to focus on the health of our employees, with them coming first and profitability second,” said Rach Resnick, VP of HR.
Junction City-Geary County Promotes Social Distancing Where You Can Have Fun
Geary County’s Milford Lake is known as “The Fishing Capital of Kansas,” has a central location, over 160 miles of shoreline, and nearly 16,000 acres of water to enjoy swimming, fishing, and boating. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the perfect place to have fun where social distancing comes easily.
“Milford Lake is the single largest tourist attraction in terms of size and visibility in all of Geary County,” says Mike Harris, owner of Acorns Resort. The influx of visitors drawn to the area also helps other businesses in a very symbiotic way according to Harris. “Many other local businesses rely on tourists who visit the lake and those visitors help to increase the local tax base, transient guest tax, and employment.”
While some of the businesses and resorts in the area have had to cancel some events like weddings and family reunions due to COVID-19 crowd size restrictions, there has also been an increase in business in other areas due to an increase in outdoor recreation since many experts are agreeing that social distancing outdoors is safer. “There are more people on the lake than I have ever seen in recent history,” says Ty Arnsen, partner at Thunderbird Marina & RV Resort and Flagstop Resort & RV Park.
How Pflugerville Companies Won the Fight With 3D Manufacturing
The 3D City Strikes Back webinar series, hosted by Pflugerville Community Development Corporation (PCDC), featured lightsaber-wielding community and business leaders - leaders who fought back against COVID-19 and the challenges it presented to the manufacturing community and the world. Like any heroes, when they were presented with a global crisis, they decided to rise to the occasion and fight back. How? By using their ingenuity and technology to help solve challenges facing supply chains, and by producing PPE and ventilators that could be used by first responders. 3D companies are uniquely poised to do so because they can retool and design parts at warp speed.
One of the panelists, Blake Teipel, spoke of how their 3D technology allows factory floors everywhere to transform by removing traditional barriers to speed, scale, and strength. This is important when working to address supply chain issues. “We help to solve this by creating tooling applications that make the manufacturing process go. We recognized the difficulties early on and worked to help manufacturers complete that retooling process quickly.
SISU, a Pflugerville robotics company also rose to the challenges posed by COVID-19, using its brand of lightsaber to create affordable ventilators. “Our process typically involves someone getting a crazy idea, learning everything we can about it, quickly developing a prototype, then rapid development,” said Russel Aldridge, CEO/Co-Founder. The speed of design, prototyping, and delivery gave them the power to make a positive impact on the race to prepare for the impacts of COVID-19 and fight back when necessary. PCDC stood provided assistance when needed to ensure that these local heroes could focus on that fight. “We brought our manufacturing community together for conversations, made introductions, and broke down any communication barriers to remove any obstacles that could stand in their way,” said Amy Madison, Executive Director of PCDC. “As a 3D City, we are better prepared to tackle any challenge that comes our way. When we fight, we win together.”
Wabasso Bar Revamps Operations During COVID-19
Union Kitchen & Sports Bar in Wabasso is a striking example of the tenacious spirit of local business owners in the community. The challenges brought on by COVID-19 have affected all types of small businesses, from retailers to restaurants. Union Kitchen & Sports Bar rearranged its business model in order to stay for the community and combat these hardships.
Instead of getting discouraged, they decided to offer take-out and curbside pickup. The owners have also been using COVID-19 as an opportunity to revamp the bar and grill while customers were not permitted inside. They have painted, rearranged, and even added outdoor dining. The community has gone above and beyond to stand behind them during this transition. “This community is known for its strong unity during hard times. The support during our revamp has been awe-inspiring. It is an amazing opportunity to be a part of the heart of Wabasso,” says owner Rubi Kafenberg.
Redwood Area Development Corporation (RADC) staff assisted the owners with purchasing the business and running with a new vision for what’s possible. RADC serves as an economic development contract staff for the Wabasso EDA. It provides services such as business retention and expansion, loan program assistance, housing opportunities, and project funding opportunities.
Falls City Promotes Small-Town Living During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The recent global pandemic has given many people a reason to reevaluate where they live, how they work, and where they want to raise their families. For many, the question has become, “Do I really want to live in a big city or crowded suburb?” Granted, both offer unique benefits such as access to a wider range of cultural activities, but the past five months have shown that amenities like museums are easy to shut down, as can city parks and playgrounds. Then what’s left is a small condo or home in a high-priced neighborhood.
When it comes to social distancing and staying safe, small towns really shine. There is more room to spread out in these areas so even walking downtown allows for people to social distance without being shoulder-to-shoulder like they are in crowded suburbs and cities. People also know each other, which can be a significant advantage because it means that people help each other out and if someone were to get sick, it’s easier to know where they have been and who they were in contact with. This is difficult in larger cities where just buying milk can be crowded - even with a mask on.
In Falls City, you can easily go fishing, ride bikes on trails or throughout the town, hike, hunt, swim, and much more! It’s a lot harder to get bored under quarantine when you have fun outdoor activities to keep you and your family occupied. Another benefit of living in a smaller town is that housing is affordable and spacious. Imagine how much easier it would be to have your family spread out, have multiple living spaces, and individual bedrooms/offices for each family member.
Unfortunately, it’s possible that something like COVID-19 could happen again. The question becomes - where would you want to live during it? If the answer is in a community where people know and support each other, housing is affordable, and you can easily get outdoors to enjoy recreational opportunities, then Falls City, Nebraska should be on your list.
One East Kentucky Pivots to Technology
COVID-19 has impacted the economy of Kentucky, the county, and the world, impacting travel, interrupting supply chains, and changing how economic development is done. Chuck Sexton, President & CEO of One East Kentucky explains, “The pandemic has certainly impacted the ability for our staff to travel to different regions of the country for recruitment purposes. Not only due to travel bans but also due to the fact that the majority of the areas in which we recruit have been some of the hardest hit by the virus. However, through targeted messaging and follow-up activity, we are working to ensure our pipeline of prospective companies are aware of our case and how we have assisted companies even during the pandemic.
To promote the business case, the organization has turned to digital marketing strategies, video, and virtual technology. “Our staff is implementing VR marketing so that even if travel bans continue well into 2021, our region can effectively market sites, buildings, and communities, as well as host augmented reality boardroom meetings with CEOs of companies from across the globe,” said Sexton.
Post-pandemic, One East Kentucky will be targeting FDI and domestic metropolitan regions for expansion and relocation opportunities. With renewed marketing and messaging, rural areas stand to benefit as companies evaluate the risk of remaining in metropolitan regions. In addition to the low-risk environment, available skilled workforce, prepared industrial sites, and low-cost of operation, the organization will also take full advantage of the virtual marketing program, allowing them to broaden their efforts more cost-effectively.
While the global supply chain is being reevaluated, Eastern Kentucky is expanding its business target to include medical device and PPE manufacturing in addition to staying on target with major industry supply chain businesses like automotive, aerospace, and other critical industries. This forward-thinking approach is part of what makes One East Kentucky stand out as an industry leader.
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