Due to the COVID restrictions on in-person meetings, Marshall County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) is transitioning its Business Expansion and Retention (BEAR) program to online meetings. BEAR surveys are an important part of how MCEDC helps existing businesses with their expansion and retention efforts. This process helps in understanding the daily challenges for businesses.
New to the interviews are questions about how the COVID pandemic has affected local industry. This is an opportunity to compile real data on the pandemic response versus anecdotal accounts. Different segments of the economy have had different experiences because of the restrictions. Restructuring the interviews to include what information is relevant pre and post COVID has been part of the transition.
These BEAR interviews provide an opportunity for local community leaders to meet with the business community and get a glimpse into what challenges local industry faces. MCEDC conducted the first BEAR interviews in 2015 and will continue to follow up with local industry building on what improvements have been made and helping to identify potential issues. Information discussed during these interviews is held in strict confidence.
Questions range from information about the individual company, their industry, and their views on the overall economy. Issues such as workforce readiness and possible local solutions have been gleaned through the ongoing BEAR interview process.
“Meeting online through the use of virtual meetings is not an ideal situation,” said Jerry Chavez, President/CEO of MCEDC. “It has allowed us to continue the BEAR program and given some insight into how different industry partners have handled the COVID restrictions. We are in the process of incorporating that information into the data that is being collected.”
COVID has affected aspects of the local industry in ways that may not be readily apparent or noticeable to community leaders. Struggles with workforce, shipping, and suppliers have been just some of the issues explored with industry leaders. These interviews are just the information gathering part of the process, answers will be aggregated and examined to see if there are areas of concern for the region or if certain issues are more targeted at certain industries or businesses.