• Local Groups, State Form Business Support Task Force

    Friday, March 20, 2020

    Area and regional economic development groups have joined forces with Harrisonburg and Rockingham County officials to support businesses in the city and county cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “We’re hearing from businesses of the need for cash flow pretty quickly, so we have taken steps at the city to try and help with that,” said Brian Shull, the economic development director for Harrisonburg.

    He said the city’s old loan program has “pivoted” to disaster-impact loans. Applications can be found on the city’s website.


    Up to $5,000 in interest-free loans are available for businesses that have been established for more than six months, according to Shull.

    He said there would also be an “expedited review process to try and get money into [the businesses’] hands as fast as possible.”

    “A lot of this, and what this task force is doing and what this city is doing, is about marketing and promoting our businesses,” said Peirce Macgill, the assistant director for economic development in Harrisonburg.

    Macgill said the community spending money in the area helps to support the efforts the task force and others are making to reduce economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “We are really encouraging the community to support their small businesses,” he said. “This problem is so large it’s really going to take the whole community’s support, not just governments or nonprofits.”

    Shull also said the Harrisonburg Public Works Department would be setting up new, temporary parking areas to help ease restaurants’ ability to serve carryout and pickup orders.

    “It’s a small thing, but hopefully it can help a little bit,” he said.

    Many restaurants have closed their dining room service since Gov. Ralph Northam ordered on Tuesday that restaurants, gyms and theaters not serve more than 10 customers at once.

    The U.S. Small Business Administration has released an emergency loan program for small businesses, called the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and staff of the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center can help applicants file.

    In addition, the group is building a Google Docs file to amass all the support programs available to the businesses, along with other measures to decrease the economic slowdown in area shops and restaurants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Members of the task force include the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce, Shenandoah Valley Partnership, Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, and Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, along with the City of Harrisonburg Economic Development Department and the Rockingham Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

    Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or Follow Ian on Twitter @iamIanMunro

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