The Great Lockdown in response to the coronavirus will likely lead to a recession that is more severe than that of 2008, according to the IMF. While a highly educated workforce, a diversified set of industry clusters and strong municipal and county leadership have mitigated impact, it is clear that we are all going to have to work together to support the small businesses that will drive economic recovery.
Collaboration between regional workforce boards like workNet DuPage, economic development agencies like Choose DuPage and College of DuPage's Business Development Center (BDC) is critical. These entities are working with regional chambers of commerce, the business incubator/accelerator known as Innovation DuPage (ID) and a number of colleges and universities to continue the necessary support of the small businesses that are impacted most during these uncertain times. COD's BDC houses the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as well as the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Illinois International Trade Center.
The BDC Center staff is working around the clock to help companies apply for payroll protection, business loans and to develop contingency plans while seeking to expand revenue streams. In fact, the BDC offered 29 webinars, served hundreds of clients with over 500 hours of free consultation in just the month of March alone.
Undoubtedly, the closure of society to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will have dramatic and negative consequences on both large and small businesses.
We encourage everyone to support the small businesses that make the region unique. At the same time, we see opportunity as new business ideas, products and modes of delivery are created in response to the closure. Innovation DuPage reports higher than normal client volume as startups consider new business opportunities and young companies look for guidance in navigating these unprecedented times.
While these economic development partners miss the face-to-face connection with clients and members, each has moved services and resources online to support business continuity.
The DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau is offering virtual tours of area attractions to help residents and businesses connect.
Choose DuPage, and workNet DuPage, along with chambers of commerce, the BDC and ID are also conducting webinars, Zoom meetings and virtual meetups to continue learning and connection across our regional business ecosystem.
On April 21, the COD BDC and the Naperville Chamber of Commerce offered "Small Business Current Financial Disaster Relief" as a webinar, and on April 17, Innovation DuPage sponsored Concordia University's "Cougar Tank" student virtual pitch contest.
ID, COD Business Solutions and the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association are collaborating on two new programs to further diversify the talent pool for both new and mature construction companies.
COD Adult Education, the BDC and ID are collaborating on an entrepreneurship course for English language learners. The partners and clients have been extremely flexible, as all of these efforts were moved online and are continuing quite successfully. This agility and willingness to collaborate are critical to recovery.
Almost overnight, schools moved thousands of courses from on ground to online. The challenges to staff and faculty alike are immense, but these efforts, when assessed and refined, will ultimately promote increased efficiency and improve pedagogy.
College of DuPage is gearing up to serve not only the students who were planning on attending this fall, but also those who may be hesitant to go away to school at this time.
I've witnessed an aligning of leaders and philosophies over the past several years in support of regional cooperation in the area of economic development -- I think this needs to continue into the future, with large and small companies, municipalities, colleges and universities continuing the shift to a 'coopetition' model which benefits the whole as well as the individual organization. As we seek out the new normal while working in relative isolation, we need to stay alert for new opportunities. Through heightened collaboration and synergy, we will move from surviving to thriving in the months to come.
Resources can be found at:
• <URL destination="https://www.cod.edu/business-development-center/">https://www.cod.edu/
• <URL destination="https://innovationdupage.org/">https://innovationdupage.org
• Joseph Cassidy, MBA, is Assistant Vice President, Economic Development Dean, Continuing Education and Public Services at College of DuPage. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.