COVID-19 has and will continue to create significant challenges for the operation of small businesses in South Carolina's cities and towns, but it also provides a time when local governments can communicate their support for the businesses in their community.
Here are some of the ways that municipalities, economic development offices, downtown revitalization groups and others can show their support.
- Compile a list of local businesses, complete with links offering online shopping, phone orders, curbside pickup or delivery, and share it on the city or town's websites and social media. Update this list as often as possible, and invite businesses and residents to submit information for the list. As examples, the City of Aiken has launched www.supportaiken.com. The City of Columbia has a list of open businesses, and the City of Gaffney is maintaining a restaurant directory.
- Create a directory of restaurants providing takeout and delivery services. This should include locations, hours, links to websites and menus. Keep the list updated and ask restaurants and residents to send in information.
- When sharing links, consider using a link shortening service like https://bitly.com and https://tinyurl.com to provide neat, manageable links that allow for tracking of clicks.
- Share social media posts from local businesses through your social media outlets, and encourage business owners to post photos and videos for sharing, especially those showing people and business activity. Sharing stories about local businesses can create personal connections and highlight the steps they are taking to protect public health and safety.
- Make social media posts encouraging residents to engage with businesses in other ways. This could be buying gift certificates to use later. It could also include using this time to rate businesses on places like Google, TripAdvisor or Yelp, and also following the businesses they care about on social media.
- Whenever possible, use hashtags highlighting the local community and its resiliency. This can be things like "#[Name of Muncipality]Strong," "#ShopLocal," "#SupportLocalSafely" or the Municipal Association of SC hashtag, "#StrongSCcities."
- Designate public on-street parking spaces for curbside pickup for restaurants and retailers to increase convenience for customers. Use signage to advertise these spaces.
- Work with local businesses to create temporary signage advertising that they remain open and have online/takeout options. Materials can be cobranded with the logos of the city, economic development office, downtown development office and others.
Dedicate a page on the municipal website for resources, which could include any of these:
- SC Emergency Management Division – Virtual Business Emergency Operations Center
- SC Department of Health and Environmental Control – Control COVID-19 information
- SC Department of Employment and Workforce – Filing unemployment claims for workers
- Centers for Disease Control – Resources for Businesses and Employers
- U.S. Department of Labor – COVID-19 and the Workplace
- U.S. Small Business Administration – Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
- SC Chamber of Commerce –COVID-19 Information & Resources Hub
- National Main Street Center – COVID-19 Main Street Resources
- National Main Street Center – COVID-19 Main Street Checklist
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Combating the Coronavirus
- SC Department of Health and Environmental Control – Click Retail Food Service Establishments & COVID-19