From the earliest stages of the COVID-19 pandemic through today, our team at BRAC has demonstrated extraordinary energy and focus, providing guidance, resources, and information to the region’s business community. We announced a formal pause on our 2020 strategic goals in late March, entering into what we’ve deemed our COVID 1.0 crisis scope of work. Today, we’re moving into the 2.0 recovery phase of that effort. But first, I’d like to share some outcomes of the last three months.
BRAC’s COVID 1.0 Outcomes
- Launched the PPE Marketplace to source and supply regional businesses with PPE necessary for reopening;
- Launched BR Works to connect displaced workers with local job opportunities. BR Works currently has more than 100 businesses listing openings;
- Produced more than 55 pieces of analysis and guidance, including daily COVID-19 Brief emails, a weekly economic indicator dashboard, a booklet on federal business aid programs, a recovery loan comparison chart, grey area guidance for opening, PPP v UI analysis, and more;
- Created brac.org/recovery as a business recovery clearinghouse that was updated daily to house all relevant and rapidly changing guidance, information, analysis, and BRAC initiatives related to the pandemic;
- 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;
- Hosted more than 30 free business webinars for over 2,800 attendees, featuring state and federal elected officials and subject matter experts on everything from federal aid programs to school reopening;
- Assisted 27 regional businesses in pivoting production to PPE;
- Partnered with the Health District to set up and source its PPE distribution center, which has received 100,000+ items; and
- Conducted 1,700+ outreach calls to regional businesses to assess economic impact and connect businesses with resources.
BRAC’s COVID 2.0 Focus Areas
As our region and state navigate the gradual reopening of the economy, so too is BRAC shifting attention from immediate crisis response to reopening and recovery. Our attention in this next phase, which we anticipate lasting two to five months, encompasses the following:
- Actionable Intelligence: BRAC learned in its first phase of crisis response that timely, thorough, and trustworthy analysis is critical for businesses to navigate the web of federal programs and make decisions for reopening. The need for quality business research and data will only continue to be important to decision-making in the coming months, which BRAC will provide in new ways in addition to its regular COVID-19 Economic Indicator Dashboards.
- Beating Back Unemployment: Many small businesses are still struggling to make it, and the true unemployment rate will become clear after insurance benefits end on July 30. The economy needs as many people back into jobs as possible. BRAC will continue to assist small businesses with their recovery through guidance and advocacy related to federal and state laws for business needs, while also addressing workforce needs with short-term training solutions and intentional connections between the unemployed and current local job openings through BR Works.
- Equitable Recovery: BRAC will support the recovery of Black and minority owned businesses across all of its efforts, but will specifically call on not only its existing Baton Rouge Procurement Opportunity Partnership partners, but all companies in the region, to be more intentional about offering equitable opportunities for minority owned suppliers, and work to connect Black-owned businesses with banking or credit partners to assist them with their application for a forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loan before the June 30 deadline.
- Recovery Communications: Ensuring that businesses of all sizes and in every regional parish have access to the information they need to reopen, rehire, and recover is top of mind. Through the continued cultivation of the brac.org/recovery page to regular e-newsletters, social media activity, webinars, media outreach, and more, BRAC will work to make it easy for businesses to find the information they need.
- Reshoring and the After-COVID Economy: Certain international supply chains that were disrupted by COVID-19 will be rapidly reconsidering the necessity for North American capacity. Just as BRAC will focus earnestly on supporting existing businesses in the region as they stabilize and recover, it is important to look forward to future opportunities to diversify and strengthen the regional economy. The communities that will win the reshoring wave are those that prepare now.
- We are Investor Relations: Financial stability for our own organization must be included as a priority area of effort, because without our talented and dedicated team, the recovery initiatives the region’s business community depends on cannot happen. We will work to demonstrate value both to our existing investor businesses, and the entire regional business community, and ask for support by joining or donating to BRAC’s 501c(3). Those who are able to contribute $250, $500, or any amount are encouraged to do so at brac.org/donate.
I am confident in this organization and this community. The world may not look familiar for a while, but the tenacity and resilience of Baton Rouge hasn’t gone anywhere. We are committed to helping the regional business community continue to reopen safely, and to responding to the pandemic in a way that meets our current needs and embraces our future opportunities.
Adam Knapp is president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. Knapp oversees all activities at BRAC and guides the strategic vision for the organization.