Leading Through COVID-19: An Economic Development Leader's Perspective

Posted in Blog on April 29, 2020

Standing Ovation for My Essential Partner

April 28, 2020

A core value of Lakeshore Advantage is to lead the standing ovation. When an individual or organization does something great to positivity impact our region’s economic vitality, we are the first to publicly recognize it, to stand up and applaud in person or virtually.
Today, I am going to lead some personal recognition. My husband Mike’s birthday is this week.  After 18 years of marriage, he is my essential partner in good times and in bad. 
When I took the job leading Lakeshore Advantage, we came to the agreement that Mike would keep the home base running, while I worked supporting our community’s economic growth. We knew my job would require long hours. Mike was a real estate agent and restaurant owner prior to moving to the lakeshore.
We have three boys in elementary, middle and high school. Our life is a juggling act. My husband coaches every one of our kid’s sports teams he can, and coordinates school and after school schedules.  When our schedule allows, he is a City of Holland Police Reserve officer. He volunteers his time whenever it can make a difference for our kids and community. 
I have been privileged to support our community in economic health and now in crisis. These last eight weeks have seen myself and my team working around the clock, seven days a week. I have been very little help or support to Mike in transitioning our kids to the new reality of virtual school, staying inside and not seeing their friends.
Mike, like so many other partners of essential workers, has taken on even more new responsibilities. He has stepped up to become a tutor, gym teacher and tech support. I am beyond appreciative of all he has done for our family.
I was hoping for a great gift idea to recognize him for this tremendous support. I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He said, “Nothing. I just want to keep our family healthy and safe.”
I decided to give him some well-deserved recognition. I am leading the standing ovation for my husband and many other essential partners keeping their families together. I recognize some of our region's essential workers are single parents, families with two essential workers, or parents working from home, all with exponential responsibilities. Our team is virtually sending you all a big round of applause. 

Communication Is Key

April 10, 2020

Communication and connections seem to be the key in today’s isolated business environment. Many business leaders are overwhelmed by the barrage of COVID-19 email communications flooding their inboxes. 

Our team saw this information overload as an opportunity to simply provide key programs of note on a weekly basis. For the past three weeks, we have held weekly public webinars, each on a key topic of interest to our business audience. More than 800 attendees have participated. Each 30-minute segment can be found on our website HERE.

Weekly, we have sent out a business flash poll. Nearly 300 business leaders have responded. This data has allowed us to share content and resources that meet the enormous need. This communication is not a one-way street for those who participate. Each week we share what we heard in the survey as an update to survey respondents, with key data points and programs that answer questions or concerns. Our webinar topics have also been related to those concerns. 

We have only scratched the surface of business leaders' demand for communication and connections. We welcome your feedback and insight.

We will take some time to rest this weekend. You can be assured, on Monday we will continue to strive to meet that need.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

April 8, 2020

We are solidly three weeks into the stay-at-home order. Individuals may be hitting their new temporary normal/stride. Many business owners have sought financial relief assistance either with their banking partners, or through state or federal resources, or are doing that this week. And now they wait. And we advocate.

We have been surveying companies weekly, and 95% of respondents from the first week’s poll said they could withstand four weeks or longer of a stay-at-home order. Last week’s poll showed that 75% could withstand four weeks or longer. The number one concern we are hearing from employers regarding their employees, other than their physical health, is whether or not they will have a job to come back to when the stay-at-home order is over. This concern amplifies as discussion of a 70-day extension gains volume.

We orchestrated a call last week with Representative Bill Huizenga and area business leaders, including startup businesses and a variety of industries, to share how COVID-19 is impacting their businesses and what could be done at the federal level.

Lakeshore Advantage is hosting a virtual meeting this week with state legislators to share some of the data we are collecting on how COVID-19 is impacting local businesses and specific industries including manufacturing and agriculture. We will share some of the conversations we have had with business leaders on how a one-size stay at home order for the entire state does not fit all.

We are hearing strategies of how local employers are able to incorporate safe practices and how the definition of allowable industries could be expanded carefully and safely. Again, there’s that West Michigan ingenuity looking to solve a problem and make things better for all. Stay safe and healthy.     

Rolling Up Our Sleeves In Person        

April 7, 2020

Today, we physically gathered, using social distance, with area Chambers to carefully vet and prioritize the more than 850 applications for the Michigan Small Business Relief Program. Our heart goes out to many business leaders struggling in this time of crisis. 

We noticed a trend amongst the business we are connected with. They are hungry for a sense of community and insight. We have had hundreds of calls asking:
  • What new safety systems are other businesses putting in place?
  • How can I as an employer help my employees during this trying time? 
  • How long will the shelter in place go on? 
Businesses that have not in the past engaged with our proactive outreach are reaching out to us. It has been fulfilling for our team to make those new connections.

It pains me to say we don’t know the answer to how long this will go on. You can be assured that we are collecting best practices, working to get a pulse on area businesses in our online survey and gathering employee support information. 

If you haven’t gone to our expansive COVID-19 business resources web page that includes financial relief, please check it out daily.  We are constantly working to update it as things change to answer the questions we can.

Enormous Need

April 6, 2020

Our local application for the Michigan Small Business Relief Program closed today at 5 pm. More than 850 applications were received over the past week.

It will be extraordinarily difficult for our review committee to make final grant awardee decisions. The grant only allows us to fund about 30 companies in Allegan and Ottawa counties. 

We are so grateful to the small businesses who took time out of their hectic schedules to apply. Additional thanks to the nine Chamber organizations that have helped us with vetting and review.

For those businesses that don’t receive funding, there is one-on-one help available to help you navigate the myriad of COVID-19 support tools.

Our team is laser-focused on primary employers. These are companies that export goods and services out of the region and contribute to our region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  If you are a primary employer, email Greg King to set up a discussion with a member of our Business Solutions Team.

For businesses that are not primary employers, the Small Business Development Center is ready to help. You can go HERE to set up an appointment with one of their business counselors. There is no cost to work with the SBDC.

The head of the West Michigan SBDC team Ed Garner will join us along with Chemical Bank leader Brad Havercamp on a webinar on Thursday to learn about the federal Paycheck Protection Program. This webinar is open to all and is free of change.  REGISTER HERE to participate and ask questions to be answered on the webinar.
Have a restful night.

A State of Constant Change

April 3, 2020

I am almost getting used to this pace of change we seem to be working with daily, even hourly.
Today, APPLICATIONS for the federal Paycheck Protection Program are available. This forgivable, low interest loan is designed for small businesses with fewer than 500 employees to keep their workers on the payroll.  
Business leaders should contact their banking partners to begin the loan process.
The application has changed even as recently as last night. Some banks may choose to wait until next week to start the process with their customers to make for a smoother collection process. The program is open through June 30, 2020, with $349 billion allocated for the program. CLICK HERE for more information. 
To help keep you informed, we are pulling in some local experts to share via webinar everything there is know right about the new Paycheck Protection Program and other financial federal assistance programs on Thursday, April 9 at 1:00pm. Please REGISTER HERE to ask questions ahead of time and join us.
One thing our banking partners are cautioning about is that fraud is rampant right now. Please know there is no cost to applying for the Paycheck Protection Program. Also be very cautious about sharing personal information unless you have initiated the interaction.
Things will definitely change between today and our webinar next Thursday. Our team, and our expert partners will continue to come to the rescue to keep you in the loop.


That Was Yesterday…

April 2, 2020

Remember yesterday when I shared I still didn’t think we quite had a handle on the programs available even though our team was working around the clock? As soon as I finished the blog, a new program hit our inbox.
MEDC announced $1 million Pure Michigan Business Connect Re-Tooling Grants to help small manufacturers re-tool to meet emergent medical product needs. This program was just a concept earlier this week and launched yesterday. You can find information HERE.  
The MEDC is being flooded with manufacturers looking to fill the tremendous need in our health care system. I was not surprised as we have heard from many companies already producing brand new products or increasing their production of essential items.

We have been surveying companies weekly, and one of the questions we ask is, "Has your company made changes to your services offered, product mix or re-tooled a production line in response to the current situation?" Last week, 22% of respondents said yes. This week, 41% responded yes to the same question.  
Amanda Chocko from our team is also working to be a connecter between manufacturers and health care systems. Feel free to email her if you have interest in producing some of the in-demand products HERE
Please also check our website with lots of information and resources and programs we know about today. 

What day is it?

April 1, 2020 

I woke up this morning thinking: what day is it? The past two weeks have melded together in a flurry of activity and information. Just when we have a handle on the information, new programs and resources or something else new hits our inbox. 
We work as fast as we can to unravel that information and share it with you. As much as I want to say we are ahead of the ball, we are still chasing down facts, information, applications and experts. 
We learned today from Congressman Huizenga that the new Paycheck Protection Loan Program (PPP) will be open on Friday. Yet, he shared there are still some details that need to be worked out to administer these forgivable loans.  We did get a sample application found HERE
We answered more than 100 questions on the Small Business Relief Grant Program and sorted through nearly 400 applications for our region. You can find our growing FAQ document on that program, along with the online application, HERE.
One thing that is constant is that every member of our team is working at full steam, outside of their conventional lanes, all to ensure that the needs of our area businesses are met. Tomorrow, we will dust off our mitts again, try to stay ahead of the ball and continue to charge forward.

Look for the Helpers – Part One

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Angela Huesman, our COO, shared with our team the Fred Rogers quote, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” That’s what I see in our community.

As we are knee-deep in grant and loan applications and holding a webinar with Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) this afternoon on the Michigan Small Business Relief Program, I think of everyone who has been a helper to us over the past two days:

  • Nine Chamber partners putting their hands up to help with the grant review and vetting process, along with pinch hitter banking and HR business leaders in our network also helping review applications
  • Mark Schmidt and the BizStream team who came to our rescue to put the application online to build in automations to make this process more efficient. Mark and his team worked Saturday and Sunday to make sure we could get the application up yesterday (Monday) morning.
  • Josh Hundt at the MEDC saying YES quickly to participating in today’s webinar related to the Small Business Relief Program.  
  • Liz Hoffswell and George Fotis with the Small Business Development Center, who are helping applicants fill out their online applications as needed.

There are so many inspiring stories of manufacturers who over the past two weeks have activated their networks and retooled and changed up their product mixes to help. I will share more about that this week. They each deserve their own blog posts.

We are very grateful for our helpers and are honored to serve in a community that values coming to the rescue to help. Look for the helpers. They are all around us, even as they keep their social distance.


Abundance of Applicants

Monday. March 30, 2020 

Today started at 6:30am at our office with Mandy Cooper and me, now that we are essential services workers due to the grant and loan program. We spent time finalizing the process and prepping for the slew of applications we were expecting for this very limited program.
And we were right. Before our 8am same-page, rally-the-troops and process meeting with our Chamber partners was over, the application launched at 9am and applications came flooding in. Some for the loan program that we are administering and recommending up to MEDC to award, but a majority for the grant program.
Our phones were constantly buzzing. Team members were fielding calls and emails all day, and we expanded our Frequently Asked Questions document here probably three-fold. Lots of questions, and also hope and action.
I want to stress this program is VERY limited, and HIGHLY competitive, and we received over 200 applications in the first 24 hours the application was live. It’s a first step for small businesses to organize their financial documents, reach out to their banking partners or accountants and look forward to projections for the next six months and beyond. They’re starting to plan.
I would encourage all of our local business leaders to reach out to their banking partners.  Ask them if they participate in SBA programs. If so, there is a vast number of resources coming through the SBA. We are categorizing these programs as they take shape on our website HERE.
Things will get better. In the meantime, if you can, stay home and stay healthy!


No Rest for the Weary

Sunday, March 29, 2020

You aren’t resting, and we aren’t either. I fielded many phone calls from area business leaders this weekend. Our organization is a connector of resources, and when businesses need resources, we are doing all we can to help. That meant working through the weekend to make connections that matter. It meant figuring out and rolling out our process for administering the $300k Michigan Small Business Relief grant program with nine Chamber partners as part of the review committee. It meant building and finalizing our online application so it could go live on Monday. And it meant taking the results from last week’s survey of primary employers, modifying it, and getting it ready again to have the data in place to focus our team’s efforts for the coming week.
We will rest, eventually. Until then, we are in this together. Stay healthy.


Building Processes Thoughtfully and Quickly

March 27, 2020

Congratulations - you have been awarded $300,000 to distribute to small businesses in Allegan and Ottawa counties. This was the big news we received from the MEDC that was officially announced today. We are very grateful for the ability to administer the Michigan Small Business Relief grant program locally.
Here are the basics.

  • Grants are a maximum of $10,000.

  • You must have 50 employees or fewer. 

  • You have to have been in business for at least three years to apply.

Give our team until March 30 to start taking applications. When the application is live it will be housed at https://www.lakeshoreadvantage.com/covid-19. There will be an FAQ up on the program as well as financial documentation you should have ready to apply. You will have until April 6 to apply.

We are taking time to put the grant program in place the right way. We want to be sure we have a solid review committee made up of our Chambers and banking partners. We are very grateful for those who have said yes to being part of this process.

Given nearly 20,000 companies in Allegan and Ottawa counties meet the basic requirements listed above, we are going to use technology to help with some of the initial vetting. Thank you to BizStream for stepping up to help us on that end.

We know this grant will only scratch the surface of the needs. Our team is trying our best to get up to speed on all the federal programs being rolled out soon. We also encourage you to connect with your banking partner. Many of those programs will go through existing financial institutions.

Stay tuned for more information and thanks for your patience.


Virtually Connecting is Still Connecting

March 26, 2020

Today was a day of firsts. We know the demand is so strong for information. Yet, at the same time, business leaders are completely overwhelmed by the myriad of COVID-19 emails flooding their in-box.
Our team has relied heavily on two key local experts when it comes to the essential services designation. Our two counties’ Emergency Managers, Nick Bonstell (Ottawa County) and Scott Corbin (Allegan County), have really come to our rescue. 
We decided it wasn’t fair just to decipher and pass along their words of wisdom. Instead, we thought, "Let’s try a webinar."  We are so glad that these two in-demand leaders agreed.
We have been reluctant to take on webinars because the face-to-face connections with our businesses, partners and investors have really been a key ingredient to our region’s success. Our work is all about relationships. Unfortunately, face-to-face just isn’t an option under the executive order. 
We posted information about our webinar on Monday. Within just a few days, we had more than 100 people sign up to "attend." 
Technically, we learned from this experience to make our next webinar even better. We hope our attendees also learned from Scott and Nick. You can find the recorded webinar HERE.
Next week, we will take on another webinar topic: the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s new Small Business Relief Programs. Keep an eye out on our website for more information soon. Until then, stay healthy!


Grey Skies, with Some Clearing Tomorrow (the webinar should help) 

March 25, 2020

Grey is not an easy area for our team or the businesses we support to live in. There are lots of grey areas in the Governor’s stay at home Executive Order.  We have fielded many questions today along the lines of:

  • Q: Are my employees essential services?

    A: Go HERE and you get to make the determination unless your customers determined this for you by issuing you a voicemail, letter or email. This is the correct answer, right now.
  • Q: Who designates an employee "essential"? 

    A: Employers self-designate at this point after reviewing the above website.
  • Q: How do I self-designate my employees? 

    A: You can put it on your website, issue a letter, email or voice message, but you must do it by March 31. We have a few templates HERE.  We aren’t lawyers so check in with your attorney too. 

In order to help answer these questions and see things with less grey, we called in reinforcements. Tomorrow at 3 pm, we will have our first webinar with Allegan and Ottawa counties' emergency response managers. You can find info HERE
Let’s hope tomorrow is a little more blue sky and a little less grey.

Mission Impossible

March 24, 2020

Surprise! You have one business day and the weekend to apply to administer the brand new Small Business Relief grant program.  There are no dollars for administering this program. You probably can only help about 40 small businesses in your area with thousands in need. What do you do?
Our team of course said YES, we are up to this mission. We didn’t go at it alone. We worked side-by-side with our partners at the Right Place to finalize our regional response action plan. 
Now, we wait for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) review committee to give us a decision. If we receive funding, we will engage our nine area chamber organizations to help us with the process of vetting and reviewing grant applicants. 
As soon as we learn more about the rules and application for the other new MEDC program, the Michigan Small Business Relief Loan program, we will fill you in.  We expect to get details by the end of the week.
Until then, I want to commend the team at the MEDC and the Michigan Strategic Fund board for putting these programs in place with lightning speed. They realized, like our team, there is no mission that is impossible if we all work together.

What Weekend?

Monday, March 23

There was no weekend for our team and many of the employers we support. Much of the last two days has been spent research and preparing for the announcement we anticipated would come and providing advice to employers in need.
Today, the Governor asked most of us to stay home. We all should respect and follow this Executive Order found HERE
We all also should pay great respect to workers who are the most critical to our nation’s infrastructure and fabric that don’t have the option to stay home. We are so grateful for our health care and service sector workers for their tireless hours that have kept us healthy and fed.
Our community is home to manufacturers of critical products like infant formula, soy protein, ibuprofen, hospital workstations and furniture. These are some examples of critical items needed during these unprecedented times to nourish and make healthy residents of Michigan, the nation, and the world.
Our manufacturers have been very nimble and ready to quickly respond to needs. In just a few days, we also have seen companies switching over product lines to make new or more of critical need items like hospital masks, air filtration devices and hand sanitizer. 
If you see your neighbors that you know are part of our critical infrastructure, give them a wave, thumbs up, horn honk or virtual high five. Our team is leading the standing ovation for those employees who are keeping our state, country and world’s fabric together until we all can breathe a sigh of relief.

Essential Services Employers

March 21, 2020

Getting calls from companies with urgent needs is a regular occurrence in the economic development world.  We have a very smart and experienced team; usually one of us knows the answer or how to get it. In today’s post COVID-19 world, our learning curve is steep. 

Yesterday late afternoon, a member of our team got an urgent call from one of our company contacts who was not able to get product in from two suppliers in Illinois and California until they had documentation that said they were an “essential manufacturer.”  They asked: How does their company get this documentation?

We know that those states who have "shelter in place" orders are allowing only employees from certain essential services companies to go to work. Our state does not have this in place currently, so how or from whom does a company get a certification?

We began calling state elected officials, the Governor’s office and lobbyists.  We looked at each of the two states' websites. Each has a different definition of an “essential service.”  Then a member of our team suggested calling one of our local legal firms. We are very blessed to have an in-kind relationship with Barnes and Thornburg.

They have had the same conversations with their clients from across the U.S. and have offices in both California and Illinois. The finding, at least at this point, is that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  is on first base with this designation. 

FEMA is taking requests from companies to become a FEMA-Critical Function Company. They means FEMA is working through the requests to determine critical function qualification and to issue the necessary designation. 

The Department of Homeland Security has categories for Essential Services Employers. Many of our employers fit these criteria. Review THIS LIST to see how your company fits in. Then, if you have questions or believe your services are critical and should be listed, send a request: FEMA-NRCC-NBEOC@fema.dhs.gov

At this point, it’s just an email with no guidelines, but it’s something in this changing world.  We will keep digging for the answers and hope they get a little clearer in this ever changing world.


Lakeshore Advantage Team Focus This Week & a Bright Spot

March 20, 2020

Lakeshore Advantage Founders can recall that our organization came to be when this community found itself flat-footed after a surprise closing of the Lifesaver’s plant resulting in an immediate loss of hundreds of jobs.
Today, our community finds itself facing an unprecedented challenge, along with the country and rest of the globe. While the challenge is much different than in 2002, the Lakeshore Advantage team is ready and privileged to come to the rescue in service to our business community. 
Our team has quickly pivoted and mobilized. Here is what we are focused on:

  • Keeping a real-time pulse of our large and medium size employers’ realities and most pressing issues. We have collaborated with national economic development research firm Blane Canada and have rallied our chamber partners in the region to deploy a brief yet poignant business poll that will be sent weekly to our employers.

  • Immersing ourselves to understand the grants and loans that are coming so that we are ready to support the coming needs. We are encouraging our small businesses and nonprofits to apply ASAP as applications are now open to eligible Michigan businesses affected by COVID-19. More information is available HERE.  

  • Engaging with the nonprofit sector to focus on populations of residents that are immediately affected and need assistance. I commend the teamwork that has gone into the single non-profit voice of action for donations, volunteers and resources found HERE.  

  • We were virtually at the table with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as they work through a $20 million program to help the small business impacted by COVID-19. We just learned the Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved this program Thursday. You can find information HERE

I want to leave you with a bright spot from yesterday. Plascore (one of our large employers that makes honeycomb core, panels and composite strutures for clean rooms) realized through this process that they were significantly short-staffed with their facility cleaning crews. After reaching out to a few area restaurants that had made some layoffs, this company was able to hire 15 former restaurant employees at full time.  The new cleaning crew is getting rave reviews from their employees.  This is one of my bright spots that we will work to highlight in these turbulent times.

The current situation is changing rapidly, and we are listening closely. What a week! 

Prepared for Crisis

March 19, 2020

I rarely toot my own horn, my parents didn’t raise me that way. However, I think my past experience has prepared me to thrive in this time of crisis.  Specifically:

  • I was the Director of Communications at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation on Sept. 11, 2001. I remember vividly creating the communication strategy internally and externally. 

  • I was the head of business retention also at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation when General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy. I worked with the team to develop a business diversification fund that dedicated $10 million of resources to our manufacturers. 

  • My husband and I worked side by side to create two successful restaurants. Unfortunately, a tragic event and the automotive meltdown forced us to close. This has helped me truly understand the challenge of small business owners in this time of crisis.  

All of these challenges have taught me:

  1. Expected the unexpected. Make a plan and be ready to modify the plan.
  2. Build a first class team that is ready for anything.
  3. Pray for discernment and wisdom, and have faith. 
  4. Rely on people who are smarter than you for advice and guidance.  

I can check the first two items above off the list. The third, I have to tell you, I am missing my church community and worship where I know HE is present and listening. For the fourth, be prepared for calls and outreach from our team to get all your great ideas and insight. If you don’t get a call, look for a survey in your email in-box. Please take time to complete and share your wisdom and needs.   
Speaking of making a plan, today the Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $20 million Business Relief Program which includes grant and loan to help our small business overcome these trying times. You can find more information HERE. Our team will be diving into these programs once the specifics are identified and share all the details with you as soon as they are available.
Stay healthy!

Why did I wait so long to use Zoom?

March 18, 2020

Our team has been able to stay connected through the Zoom Conference tool while we try to keep our social distance.  Daily we have a standing call with an array of items to accomplish.
Please follow our social media sites (on the footer of this web page). We will be sharing a business quick tip and/or a local word of business advice. It is our hope that these short bits of information will provide knowledge to our leaders facing an uncertain future. I know we all have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 communication, you can assure when we communicate I will have a direct value to the primary business leaders we serve.
Throughout the course of the next week, our team will be calling top employers and investors to get a pulse check. We are hopeful if you get one of our calls you will take 20 minutes or so to share your knowledge. The overriding sentiment is that we want you to know we are here and ready to work as an extended member of your team.
A key partner in our work is the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. I participated in an exciting call today. The MEDC is in process of rolling out new programs to provide near term grants and loans to small businesses most hit by the Governor’s Executive Order and COVID-19 closures. As soon as I get the specifics likely in early April, we will make sure our employers have access to these new resource programs.

Now is time for our team to swing into action 

Tuesday, March 17 

Please note many of the primary employers we support are still producing products.  Some have had to make accommodations for workers who do not have childcare or sent their non-essential office workers home to work remotely. We do realize as time goes on and restrictions increase, they may face additional challenges.
Step one of our team is to continue expertise in Business Intelligence Data gathering. We utilize a program called Synchronist that is also used for other economic development groups throughout the U.S. 
The Synchronist team pulled together a conference call of 40+ economic development organization to discuss coordinate a survey response. If we all agree to some of the same questions then we can compare and contrast throughout the U.S.
We had already reached out near our Chamber partners in Allegan and Ottawa County to see if they would be willing to promote this survey to their members.  Currently 6 local Chambers of Commerce have said yes to the partnership.
This new national opportunity has had us pump the breaks initially to get the questions right and coordinated. The group also agreed there may be multiple surveys/outreach needed as this crisis progresses.
Our plan is to finalize the survey next week and push it out to our employers, coordinating also with distributing the survey with local chambers. We will share the data as it is compiled and can be helpful to access true business needs.
I also learned at the non-profit daily call that nearly 300 people have signed up to volunteer in just two days.  Our community is rallying together to support those in need.

School closure and no toilet paper

Monday, March 16 

Day 1, school closure, remote workers and no toilet paper.  In just a few days, our world went from hearing about COVID-19 on the other side of the world to facing it in our state. 

Our team has been honored to be part of a non-profit needs group that began its work the preceeding Friday.  Led by Patrick Cisler of the Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance, the first call had more than 30 nonprofits join forces.  The primary motivation was to make sure kids and seniors had their basic needs met.
Within just a few days, the Community Foundation of Holland/Zeeland, Grand Haven Community Foundation and United Way had all contributed to the immediate relief efforts.  A website which had been beta tested for a crisis like this went live at https://www.careottawacounty.com/  This site is designed to be the one-stop shop for volunteers and donations.
I was floored that no one dug their feet in the ground and said "can we send them to our site instead?"  Rather, all the non-profits agreed this portal made sense and were bought in. This is a testament to the work the Lakeshore Non Profit Alliance and the Community Foundations have done to add value and connections within the nonprofit space. This group now has daily calls to provide updates on response and needs.
The prior week, our team had a gathering of key Human Resources leaders.  Many of these leaders who had facilities in other countries shared the challenges they were facing, new policies they had to put in place and best practices regarding coronavirus. 
These leaders agreed to share this information with the full group. In addition, this made a great basis for the start of our team’s COVID-19 Business Resource Directory found HERE.  We will be updating this daily with other items we receive that can benefit our business audience.