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What a difference a month makes

In my last column in early March, I wrote about several events and promotions occurring in spring and summer. All of that has now changed, many things are canceled and others are in a holding pattern. What a crazy month it has been.

At the Durango Business Improvement District, we have scrapped all our plans and started over, trying to stay ahead of all the changes for businesses downtown and in the North Main District. We have a new idea that will allow the community to support our businesses that are either closed or are operating in a reduced capacity, while staying at home.

BID, Durango Chamber of Commerce and Local First have created an online store that functions like an auction for the buyer. This online store can be accessed through our websites: DowntownDurango.org, DurangoBusiness.org, or Local-First.org. Durango-area businesses are entering items they want to sell, such as gift certificates, goods and services. The public can place a bid on any item through the online store, which again functions as an auction.

We know money is tight for so many of us right now, but if you have anything to spare, please consider supporting our local businesses by making a bid on items they are trying to sell. Bidding began Friday and will end April 26. Support your local businesses if you can!

In addition to this effort, BID has been working with about 20 other business organizations to find and understand the business funding options available. The group is called La Plata County Economic Recovery Task Force. Funding options include micro-loan funds at Region 9 Economic Development District and First Southwest Community Fund, as well as the massive federal stimulus package. Of interest to local businesses is the $350 billion Payroll Protection Program.

PPP allows small businesses, the self-employed and sole proprietors to obtain 2.5 times their average monthly payroll though a Small Business Administration loan. If at least 75% of the loan amount is used to bring employees back on the payroll, and the other 25% is used on core operating expenses like rent and utilities, the loan can be 100% forgiven. There are many nuances to how this works for different types of businesses, business owners are encouraged to talk with their bank and accountant to determine if this is right for them.

To help businesses navigate all the opportunities, the Task Force has created a “playbook” to guide decision-making about what support is best for a particular business. This is available for any business owner through the La Plata County business pages on SWCODA.org.

I also want to thank all the front line workers in essential positions – grocery store clerks and stockers, public transit drivers, law enforcement, fire department and EMTs, and of course, our doctors, nurses and health care workers, including everyone at the San Juan Basin Public Health Department. BID offers a big shout out to schoolteachers, too, and all the parents who are working hard at home with their kids.

Durango has been through tough times before, and we will get through this tough time too. Stay strong, stay healthy and stay informed.

Tim Walsworth is the executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District. Contact him at timw@downtowndurango.org.