Brower: It’s been a crazy but good year helping Grand County businesses
Grand Enterprise Initiative
Once a year I like to take the time to update the community on how my work as Enterprise Facilitator with the Grand Enterprise Initiative is proceeding. And I must say, the last year has been a crazy year.
We’ve added 30 new clients since this time last year. A client is anyone who has called and asked for assistance and with whom we’ve met. We’ve helped seven new businesses open their doors, adding 10 new jobs to the economy. These are businesses in Winter Park, Fraser, Granby and Kremmling. We’ve helped with two acquisitions — which means businesses that might have closed — continued to operate. We’ve helped with 20 tune-ups and expansions, most related to COVID-19 issues. This assistance was county wide.
I never would have guessed we would have seen such good results in the midst of a pandemic. But the truth is, business is good, but challenged, in Grand County right now. The challenges are despite COVID-19 and because of COVID-19.
Let me explain. The despite COVID successes have been because while many service businesses, especially restaurants and bars, have been forced to cut back on their capacity, many of them have weathered the storm and are managing to get by in these strange times.
Yes, many essentially lost three months of business, or 25% of the year. But since then, for restaurants, innovative seating, take-out cuisine and simple persistence has paid off. For bars, it’s been tougher. When a business model is based on getting people together to drink is told to stop or severely cut back, the challenges are extreme. But demand has been high, especially from visitors, and those sectors have reached out to meet that demand.
And now for the “because of COVID” successes. In general, the pandemic has driven many more people into Grand County, especially during the summer months. Many of our businesses, from lodging providers, to realtors, to retailers and tourist-servers, this summer has been very good. The simple truth is that the numbers of visitors here over the last four months suggests strongly that Grand County and resort-rural Colorado have been discovered.
Consider just for a second the crowded beaches on all of Lake Granby over the summer. I’ve never seen it like that before. Consider the numbers of cars parked at fishing pull-off spots in the county. There were more than ever. Consider the traffic jams from Granby to Winter Park to Berthoud Pass on Sundays this summer. I’ve never seen them like that, and so consistently, before.
So when the town of Granby announces that their retail sales were actually up for much of the third quarter, that’s a real trend. It’s a county wide phenomenon.
The real problem with all this is an old problem. Many businesses simply could not staff for the business they faced this summer. Some didn’t even open for lack of help, partly because foreign workers weren’t allowed in the country due to COVID. And many that could staff really struggled keeping customers happy with limited staffing.
It was tough.
The other contributing factor is the real estate boom we are seeing. Homes aren’t on the market for long in Grand County. Inventory isn’t exactly over flowing. Visitors continue, largely through short term rental situations, to take up what we used to offer for local or employee housing. So homes, property and some commercial real estate in general aren’t less expensive because of the pandemic, they are more expensive and increasingly limited. (There are exceptions in the commercial realm, but that’s a different story.)
So Grand County is still an enterprising place to be with unique and amplified challenges because of COVID-19. I hope that in a year from now we can put COVID behind us and embrace whatever the “new normal” might bring.
Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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