“We’re fighting hard for our life here,” he said. “Especially in light of the stimulus plan—the CARES package, the [Paycheck] Protection Program—there’s just not enough money.”
Penn organized a Save Our Square rally April 24 to highlight the support McKinney’s downtown will need to survive the pandemic.
“A lot of people are really hurting and suffering down here,” he said.
McKinney Mayor George Fuller said he recognizes the difficulties but advised people to continue safe practices through the pandemic.
While government funding is still coming through for struggling businesses, local leaders such as Fuller are also working to help them survive
During an April 21 McKinney City Council work session, Assistant City Manager Kimberly Flom said the federal government will likely do “the heavy lifting” with grants and loans to help business owners, but there have been some “growing pains” attached to these federal programs, she said.
“These things speak to the need for local programs,” she said during the work session.
The McKinney Chamber of Commerce is working to aid not only its members, but all businesses in the city, McKinney chamber president and CEO Lisa Hermes said. The chamber has launched a resource page called “We are #McKinneyStrong” that is being updated regularly. It includes where to find Small Business Administration lenders, what to know from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and how to check for restaurants that are offering simplified services. The site also contains printable resources that businesses can display, she said.
“It’s during times like these [that] the community has to come together and support one another,” Hermes said in a news release. “Our goal as a chamber is to support every single business in the area and make sure they have access to the information they need.”
Hermes said it became apparent in early March that the way the chamber did business was about to change.
“Our mission is to lead, connect, and empower our stakeholders to advance business and community excellence,” she said in an email. “That mission is more important now than it has ever been.”
Bob Roden, who owns Utmost Travel in McKinney with his wife, Vickie, said the chamber did not hesitate to reach out as his business’s revenue plummeted.
“As you might imagine, our year is toast because everything got canceled, but in the midst of that, the chamber staff has been phenomenal,” he said. “It is apparent in everything that the chamber does in all of their communications that they really care about the businesses. They’re not just doing their job and trying to maintain memberships. They actually, truly care.”
In addition to reaching out to all McKinney businesses and serving as the driving force behind #McKinneyStrong, the chamber has partnered with the city and nonprofits to create a resource page called “One Heart McKinney.” The page, which is updated daily, serves as a one-stop shop for people looking for help.
The chamber is now hosting virtual meetings and webinars every month to help connect the community with resources. It is also partnering with other McKinney organizations to sell #McKinneyStrong T-shirts. Net profits from the T-shirt sales go toward small businesses and area nonprofits.
Helping small businesses navigate the different emergency programs offered through the SBA is another chamber effort.
“We’re currently evaluating our programming to see what things we can take online and what additional programming we can bring to our members,” Hermes said in her email. “We’ll continue to evolve and help out anyone in the area that we can.”
Other leadership efforts
While the chamber has boots on the ground to help local businesses, city leaders are also doing what they can to keep the McKinney business community intact, even as a phased-in reopening for the city is in the works starting May 1.
In late April the McKinney City Council launched a $1 million grant program, funded by the McKinney Community Development Corp., that Mayor George Fuller described as a “first step.”
A business can apply for the program starting in May and receive up to $1,500 in financial aid.
“I plan to secure much more money than that before it is over,” Fuller said in an email. “Even though some businesses can open, the relief is still needed.”
At the April 21 council workshop, city staff agreed that many businesses are indeed relying on aid from local and federal agencies.
“The need for this grant is real, and it’s there,” Flom, the assistant city manager, said.
Amy Rosenthal, McKinney Main Street Program director, cited a survey conducted in April with downtown’s businesses. Of the respondents, 32% said their business was in jeopardy of closing permanently if the disruption continues for another month or two, she said.
“Without these stores in downtown and the people behind them, what do we have?” Rosenthal said in an April 23 presentation to the McKinney Community Development Corp.
Fuller said the goal of the city grant is to provide some relief as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the city is searching for other avenues of funding for future grants.
“During this crisis, it is our duty to protect businesses,” Council Member La’Shadion Shemwell said during the council meeting.