Portage County Economic Response Team holds fourth briefing
By Taylor J. Hale
PORTAGE COUNTY – The Portage County Economic Response Team held its fourth briefing on May 6. The meeting focused on how the COVID-19 virus has affected employee safety standards, Tourism Week in the state, and more.
Employee safety during COVID-19
Anderson O’Brien Attorney Brian Formella spoke on employee safety during the pandemic and future reopenings. Formella noted that employees should familiarize themselves with CDC and DHS guidelines and documents before reopening shops and restaurants.
Formella added that the CDC recommends keeping an open line of communication with employees, and making sure they inform management of any symptoms.
To learn more about CDC guidelines and suggestions, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html.
To learn more about DHS guidelines and recommendations, visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov.
Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Sara Brish said that 187 events have already been cancelled across the area, adding up to millions of dollars lost. Many events have been rescheduled for next year. Brish noted that hotels had been hit especially hard by the virus.
“Our hotels are experiencing tremendous loss, along with all of your businesses,” Brish said. “Some are experiencing occupancy as low as 3 percent and as high as 20 percent.”
Wisconsin Secretary of Tourism Sara Meaney also spoke during the briefing. Meaney said that in the last seven weeks alone, the state had seen a loss in travel spending of $1.3 billion compared to the previous year.
Meaney added that this significant loss comes during a slow season for the state’s tourism industry. The massive hit comes after Wisconsin’s most successful tourism year on record.
“2019 is Wisconsin tourism’s largest year on record,” Meaney said. “Tourism totaled $22.2 billion of economic impact to the state of Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation update
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Assistant to the Secretary Mike Woicekowski spoke on WEDC programs designed to help area businesses weather the storm during the pandemic.
The organization’s Be Ready program is set to roll out guidelines for reopening restaurants, shops, and businesses during the week of May 4.
“We are working with the department of health services, as well as the industries, as well as (the department of tourism),” Woicekowski said about the new program.
To learn more about WEDC programs, visit https://wedc.org.