Amid challenging year, regional EDO pivots to support regional recovery
Baton Rouge, La. (December 21, 2020) – The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) today released key accomplishments achieved by the organization in 2020, a year in which it pivoted its priorities to support the regional business community through the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery period.
“In a year of incredible uncertainty, BRAC emerged as a reliable and trusted source of information and support for the regional business community,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC. “Our team was nimble, focused, and effective, and I think illustrated the critical role that chambers and economic development organizations play in the strength of a community – in good years, and in difficult ones.”
BRAC’s COVID-related work outcomes include:
- Created brac.org/recovery as a business recovery information hub to house all relevant and rapidly changing guidance, analysis, and BRAC initiatives related to the pandemic, garnering nearly 100,000 page visits;
- Launched the PPE Marketplace to source and supply regional businesses with PPE necessary for reopening, ultimately facilitating 791 orders;
- Launched BR Works to connect displaced workers with local job opportunities. BR Works currently has more than 100 businesses listing more than 1,500 openings, and has garnered more than 30,000 page visits;
- Produced more than 290 pieces of analysis and guidance, including regular COVID-19 Brief emails, a short term training resource guide, a booklet on federal business aid programs, a recovery loan comparison chart, grey area guidance for opening, analysis on child care access, PPP v UI analysis, and more;
- Created one of the nation’s first regional weekly economic indicator dashboards, and published it for 33 consecutive weeks, giving business owners a reliable, objective tool to understand the market as they were trying to survive through the downturn and rebound;
- Hosted more than 70 free business webinars for more than 5,800 attendees, featuring state and federal elected officials and subject matter experts on everything from federal aid programs to school reopening;
- Connected 30 Black-owned businesses and child care centers to local banks for Paycheck Protection Program assistance after identifying a disparity in financial access for such organizations through BRAC’s Black-owned business survey;
- Assisted 27 regional businesses in pivoting production to PPE, and facilitated an introduction between the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge to regional hospitals for the Sewing Safe project, through which thousands of locally sewn masks were distributed to front line workers during the height of PPE supply chain disruption;
- Partnered with the Health District to set up and source its PPE distribution center, which received more than 100,000 items;
- Developed draft legislation and supported passage of COVID liability protections for businesses reopening to customers and employees;
- Conducted more than 1,700 outreach calls to regional businesses to assess economic impact and connect businesses with resources;
- Led the development of the Safe at Work framework, a guidance on safely reopening Louisiana’s economy, endorsed by nearly 60 organizations around the state, prior to the May 15 Phase One Executive Order;
- Coordinated regular interactions with the region’s economic development and chamber of commerce partners to strengthen recovery response efforts.
Outside of COVID-recovery efforts, BRAC also continued core tenants of its mission, including business development, talent retention and attraction, and diversity and inclusion. Outcomes under those areas of work included:
- Facilitated 12 project expansions or entries into the market, representing $1.46 billion in CapX, 1,096 new direct jobs, and $35.5 million in payroll;
- Partnered with IMPACTBR on locating new companies in North Baton Rouge, and on site certification for new investment;
- Created historic partnership with higher education institutions to retain college students after graduation by leveraging Handshake;
- Added nine new companies to the Baton Rouge Procurement Opportunity Partnership (BR-POP) to facilitate relationships with diverse suppliers for procurement practices, bringing the total cohort to 25 partner companies. Since its launch in May 2019, BR-POP has facilitated contracts of $23.9 million;
- Funded 13 companies to participate in the Dialogue on Race series;
- Crafted a legislative package for tort reform and education, with BRAC’s tort reform public policy commentarybeing cited by the bill author on the floor of the House of Representatives;
- Hosted a forum for East Baton Rouge Mayor-President candidates;
- Published BRAC’s 2021 Economic Outlook report as a decision-making tool for the region’s business community; and
- Launched a redesigned website for the organization at brac.org.
BRAC was named Chamber of the Year by the Louisiana Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and the Baton Rouge metro was named Major Market of the Year by Southern Business and Development magazine.
BRAC will release its 2020 Annual Report in March, and will announce 2021 priorities at a presentation to the Baton Rouge Press Club on January 11.