Portage County Economic Response Team holds first briefing
By Taylor J. Hale
PORTAGE COUNTY – Portage County’s Economic Response Team held its first virtual briefing on April 13. The online meeting gave area leaders a chance to share information on resource programs for businesses and other COVID-19 updates.
The team was created to help guide local businesses through the financial struggles brought about by the mass closures due to COVID-19. Speakers from the Portage County Health Department, city and county governments, CAP Services, and other local organizations spoke on available resource opportunities for residents, including grant and loan programs and other financial opportunities.
“There’s money that’s being thrown out there, so we are trying to wrap our heads around what are the resources out there for our local businesses,” said Ryan Kernosky, Stevens Point director of community development and a member of the response team.
Portage County Executive Chris Holman noted that most utility crews and services are still functioning throughout the region.
“Most services are still available, though the interactions are almost all online, by phone, or if needed, by appointment,” Holman explained.
Current Team Projects
The response team has already spearheaded several large scale projects that would help relieve the financial burdens of COVID-19 closures. Team members are working with state legislatures to possibly postpone April property tax installments until July and are also looking at offering small business loans to shop owners who are struggling during these times.
“The small business loan program is something that’s designed to help local businesses, the smaller businesses specifically,” Mayor Mike Wiza said. “This is designed specifically to assist business owners with paying a mortgage or a lease, and their utility bills. This isn’t helping them maintain employees or buy additional surplus stock. This is solely designed to protect the building, so when things do get better, they will be able to open up quicker.”
The Stevens Point program would only be offered to local, non-franchise businesses. The grant program will go in front of council on April 20.
Resources from various groups, both local and federal, can be found on the response team’s website at www.portageeconrecovery.org.
Business owners can directly message the response team with questions through the website. “(The website) was really designed to be a landing page, so if you have any questions, and you don’t know where to start, Portage Econ Recovery is a great place,” Kernosky said. “I think it’s going to be a huge asset to our local businesses looking to navigate these uncertain times.”
The Portage County Economic Response Team is made of nine organizations, the Portage County Business Council, Portage County Government, City of Stevens Point, Plover, CREATE Portage County, Small Business Development Center, Convention and Business Bureau, CAPS Services and the Plover Area Business Association.
More Economic Response Team briefings will be held in the future. Follow the Gazette for updates on this development.