The County Gin reached out to Wharton Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Executive Director Chad Odom for an update on how small businesses have been affected by COVID-19. Read more about his perspective on Wharton’s projected economical standing amid the global pandemic.
Q: In your opinion, how has COVID-19 affected the small business economy of Wharton overall?
A: Time will tell how long and lasting this might be.
However, this will definitely be a short- to medium-term hit on the flow of orders and customers.
Q: What are some of the struggles small businesses have been experiencing during this crisis?
A: A big struggle for Wharton small businesses is missing the cashflow of having customers or having orders to fill.
Q: What are some of the concerns you’ve heard from small business owners?
A: Most concerns from small business owners are focused on when they can expect things to return toward a more normal and how long their businesses can survive without the normal cash flow.
Q: How has the WEDC been assisting small businesses during the shutdown from COVID-19?
A: We have been disseminating information and pointing them toward federal resources for sources of capital. We continue passing along best practices for reopening safely, while encouraging the community to come out and shop local either by phone or in person.
The WEDC is also assisting with expansion opportunities.
Q: Do you see an end in sight within the near future as businesses begin to open back up?
A: It depends on if there is a recurrence of this.
Wharton citizens have remained relatively unscathed from the virus in terms of case numbers and mortality rate.
However, predictions of more waves could heavily impact us — especially if we aren’t careful in learning the lessons of why we are safe to date, such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, etc.
‘ We will be insulated by the construction boom that is forthcoming ‘
Q: What do you foresee for Wharton’s economy?
A: Over the medium- to long-term projections, we will be insulated by the construction boom that is forthcoming with the levee project, Interstate 69, school reconstruction and the possible extension of FM 1301.
Our ability to benefit from the construction will largely be due to our capacity to service the construction contractors.
So, the more restaurants and retail we keep open during this crisis, the better. We will be able to capitalize on the direct impacts of those projects.
Q: What are some of the ways in which the WEDC will be assisting or supporting small businesses as we transition to reopening the state?
A: We will continue to promote our “Shop Safe, Shop Here” program and monitor federal policy for more tools coming out of Congress that can help the businesses sustain the losses of this event.
The WEDC will be working with private foundations to find money to help the businesses with marketing and technology in the hope that it will help keep customers spending money within Wharton’s shops and restaurants.
For our primary employers — those who make things to export out of our local economy — we are looking to help find sources of new contracts on which they can place bids to keep full employment.
For more information about the Wharton Economic Development Corporation, visit the WEDC website.