In Prince George’s, Community, Local Businesses Work Together To Overcome New Challenges
Things are looking up in Maryland. This past Monday, the state reported its lowest number of new positive coronavirus cases since June 18. Monday also marked the 11th straight day that health officials reported fewer than 20 deaths related to the coronavirus.
On June 12, the state moved into Phase 2 of Gov. Larry Hogan’s “Roadmap to Recovery” reopening plan, allowing indoor dining to resume at restaurants across the state at 50% capacity and the opening of outdoor amusements and rides, miniature golf and go-kart tracks. One week later, indoor gyms and other studio fitness activities reopened at 50% capacity, along with casinos, arcades and malls.
Prince George’s County, however, has been taking things a little more slowly. The county moved into a modified Phase 2 on June 15 but did not enter into a full Phase 2 reopening until June 29, as it saw a downward trend in the number of new coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations.
Now, as retail and restaurant owners tentatively work their way toward full reopening, questions still remain about what lies ahead for Prince George’s County.
Rallying Around Local Businesses
David Iannucci, president and CEO of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp., said the county led all 24 jurisdictions in Maryland in job creation for five consecutive years and is working hard to keep up those numbers despite the pandemic.
“Resiliency is the backbone of any entrepreneur, but the coronavirus and the required closures have truly tested the strength and endurance of the local business community,” Iannucci said. “Despite that, the business community is surviving.”
Local restaurants and retailers have survived by pivoting to online sales, curbside pickup and delivery services.
The Prince George’s County EDC has been working to support local businesses through its “Buy Prince George’s” movement, which connects businesses with residents who want to support the local economy. Businesses were encouraged to list their goods and services in the County Cyber Mall, while residents were encouraged to make an effort to shop online or in-store at businesses on that list. More than 60 companies signed up within hours of the program being announced.
Prince George’s County also established a Business Recovery Initiative with $20M in funds it received through the CARES Act. The BRI offered grants up to $100K to small local businesses that were impacted by the coronavirus. The BRI received more than 900 applications and has almost completed the process of distributing the grant funds, the EDC said.
The county also hosted numerous webinars to inform local businesses of county, state and federal resources available to them, partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Maryland Department of Commerce and SCORE.
Support from the community has also kept some local businesses afloat. Sierra’s Grill, a 30-year-old authentic Mexican restaurant that has been a staple of the Beltsville community, was struggling to survive after it was forced to close due to the pandemic. The restaurant’s patrons created a GoFundMe page to help keep it open, raising $1,385 for the owners. Sierra’s Grill is currently open and back to serving the community.
Businesses Give Back
Just as the community has been working hard to support local businesses, Prince George’s County businesses have been doing what they can to help the community.
Sew Creative Lounge in Mount Rainier has been working to teach people how to sew since 2017. When the pandemic began, owner Cecily Habimana began sewing facemasks to sell on the Sew Creative website and started hosting virtual sewing camps for children. She has also donated thousands of facemasks to Prince George’s County Hospital.
Dawn Moss, executive managing partner at Carolina Kitchen Bar & Grill in Hyattsville, partnered with World Central Kitchen to provide over 10,000 meals to the Prince George’s County community during the peak of the county’s coronavirus outbreak.
Hyattsville’s Love Yoga Studio was forced to close its studio during the pandemic, but co-owner Asia Vianna Leak quickly began offering virtual classes so the community could still practice from home.
Looking To The Future
Planning for the future, the county has created The Prince George’s Forward Task Force, which was designed to help guide the county government’s approach to addressing the impact of the coronavirus.
The county has also created the Emerge Stronger Small Business Recovery & Resilience program, a partnership between the Prince George’s County EDC, FSC First and the Bowie Business Innovation Center, to address the technical assistance needs of the Prince George’s County business community.
The goal of the ESBR is to help local companies pivot their business models so they can continue to serve their communities and support their employees. The ESBR will provide supplemental grant funding, technical assistance and industry-specific mentoring to at least 100 participants.
“All of these efforts constitute a strong belief in Prince George’s County, that we will emerge from this worldwide pandemic ready to grow and see our business community continue to prosper in the new reality that we will all have to face,” Iannucci said. “We know that normal will be different, but we are prepared to face the challenges ahead with confidence that we will see the type of success that has propelled us to be the fastest-growing county in Maryland.”