Kewaunee County businesses can find help on KCEDC website to weather the COVID-19 storm
LUXEMBURG – Nonessential businesses — small shops, boutiques and galleries —have been closed by state order because of the coronavirus crisis, and restaurants and taverns are limited to take-out or delivery service.
But Richard Baker, director of the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp., said this week that although times are tough, small-business owners he has talked to since the closures seem to be weathering the storm.
He said he also took a call from a person interested in opening a small business in the county hopefully this fall, assuming the pandemic has passed by then.
"Everybody seems to be doing OK," Baker said. "For a few of the businesses I have talked to, they are kinda optimistic that by June, they can be up and running. And because people have been shut in their homes, they'll want to get out and about, they'll want to travel. We're hoping things start lifting in May, June at the latest."
Baker doesn't yet know how the closures will affect the county and its municipalities once Gov. Tony Evers's safer at home order is lifted, in part because the country hasn't seen such a sudden, long-term shutdown of businesses and interruption of normal commerce.
"It's too early to measure what the economic impact is going to be," Baker said. "This is unprecedented. In a recession, it's a gradual slowdown. Here, everyone was working full bore and all of a sudden, boom. There are a lot of unknowns out there."
Although restaurants are able to provide meals, the loss of people dining in them is taking its toll. Baker said the establishments he's talked with say they're losing about 25 percent of their usual business, which is on par with reports from across the country.
The dairy industry, so vital to the county, is especially hard-hit because food services providers, notably schools and restaurants, are normally large-scale buyers of milk and cheese. With decreased demand, milk prices have tumbled and some dairies are dumping milk because they can't sell it at this time.
"Milk prices have dropped immensely," Baker said. "(Dairy farms) have been hit hard the last several years, so they have to start weathering the storm again."
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For some better news, though, the county's larger manufacturers are continuing to operate as essential businesses. N.E.W. Plastics Corp. in Luxemburg, for example, has concentrated the past couple of weeks on making bottles and containers for the food and medical industries, including sanitizer bottles, and provided clear plastic to a Green Bay company and several hobby 3-D printers in the Green Bay area to make hundreds of face shields.
"Everybody seems to be making products for manufacturers that are essential," Baker said. "They're all working. They seem to be holding their own at this time."
Baker said resources are available at the local, state and federal levels to help businesses navigate the crisis. He said the KCEDC website has a link at the top of its homepage that goes to a page devoted to such resources, including Paycheck Protection Program and Small Business Administration disaster loans and a variety of other loan and grant programs. There also are links to general information on working through the crisis, and Baker said business owners and workers can call the KCEDC with questions.
The best thing business owners can do, Baker said, is to have professionals on hand with who they can consult, especially on matters such as taking out loans versus grant applications.
"The biggest thing right now is they should have a good attorney, a good CPA and a good banker," Baker said. "If you're in business, you should have these three essential components anyway. Now, in a crisis like this, you see the importance more than ever of having those folks and getting good advice from them."
For more information, call Baker at 920-255-1661 or visit kcedc.org.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Kewaunee County businesses can find help on KCEDC website to weather the COVID-19 storm