Q&A with Georgetown Chamber of Commerce: How COVID-19 has affected Georgetown businesses

Georgetown Chamber of Commerce President Jim Johnson spoke on the effect of the coronavirus on local businesses. (Chance Flowers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Georgetown Chamber of Commerce President Jim Johnson spoke on the effect of the coronavirus on local businesses. (Chance Flowers/Community Impact Newspaper)

Georgetown Chamber of Commerce President Jim Johnson spoke on the effect of the coronavirus on local businesses. (Chance Flowers/Community Impact Newspaper)

As Georgetown businesses reopen, Community Impact Newspaper spoke with Georgetown Chamber of Commerce President Jim Johnson on the effect the coronavirus has had on local businesses.

And while the true effects remain unknown as each week brings new information, Johnson said the chamber will continue to be there for area businesses to help them and facilitate their economic success.

Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

What are the ramifications if business were to open back up now only to potentially have to close them again if COVID-19 cases spike?

I have not heard directly from businesses about what that would look like for their business. However, in our conversations with businesses, they would prefer to open in some cases at a later date than open and then be required to close again. Because once they close again, they won't have a true outlook on when reopening would take place again. I do believe businesses have that are choosing to reopen are following guidance from the state of Texas and making the best decision currently for their business under those requirements. If they can open, reopen properly.

Does the chamber have any projections of the number of businesses that might be forced to close permanently or on the projected revenue loss to the small-business industry in Georgetown?

In the recent data that [the chamber] was able to compile from a countywide survey, a few businesses did identify that they were unsure if or when they could reopen. We are aware of businesses, like Greenhouse Craft Food, that have chosen not to reopen. But we haven't heard of any overwhelming or trends that would imply the majority or even a larger segment or minor segment are choosing not to reopen.

I think what I’ll tell you is if the restrictions continued, the vast majority of businesses would continue to operate on a partial or limited basis, while a minor percentage would not continue to operate in that area.

What does it take for a business to open back up once they have been closed for weeks on end?

When we participated in the countywide survey, that was one of the questions that we asked how quickly could you reopen? And, you know, that really depends on the business. For some businesses they could reopen the next day, if they had good contact with their employees and their employees were going to come back to work. Some might need one to three days as they locate suppliers and food.

So, the majority of businesses could be back in less than three days, but there's so many factors at times that take place. And as [Gov. Greg Abbott] continues to release additional information, the businesses have to wait to understand what those requirements are going to be, and what additional supplies are parameters do they have to do to ensure that they can operate within the new requirements.

What do you see as the long-term damage to area small businesses?

I'm going say on a positive note, businesses are going to learn, in some ways, more efficient ways to operate using technology. But I can't ignore that being closed in some cases for upwards of nearly 60 days won't hurt and make it very difficult for businesses to reopen or to operate sooner at their previous style of business. So though businesses are going to be impacted, not in a positive way, I'm also optimistic that businesses when they reopen, have had time to streamline and also embrace technology so that they can be a more efficient and hopefully more profitable business.

How long could it take to get back to some sense of “normalcy” if the virus is indeed slowing?

I think that's going to be an individual case-by-case basis. You know, my organization asked that question internally, multiple times per day. Because as things are lifted, there is still a level of comfort that each individual has to exercise to make sure that they're personally comfortable. We live in a great country that allows free will and for you to make your own individual choices. So I think for some people, they were the ones at the restaurant last Friday and two Fridays ago, it's 8 a.m. going back to the normal getting a cup of coffee, while others will need to see the vaccines or zero counts of new cases before they consider returning to a normal operation.

What are business owners’ concerns when considering opening up again?

I think the top two concerns are one, are they actually in compliance with the new guidelines, [as] sometimes it can be open to interpretation on certain areas. And I think businesses want to make sure that they are following those guidelines and adhering to what the state recommends. But two, I think their biggest concern is how long as we've discussed, until their customers come back, and when can they resume and see normal revenue? And as you know, in your work, you can see projections out there that say summer [and] some say next summer. So which projection is going to best allow them to properly forecast their revenue so that they can be the best situation to have economic success.
By Ali Linan
Ali Linan began covering Georgetown for Community Impact Newspaper in 2018. Her reporting focuses on education and Williamson County. Ali hails from El Paso and graduated from Syracuse University in 2017.


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